DeCock

Five cities that double the fun

Staff WriterMarch 31, 2009 

With the construction of Ford Field, Detroit joins an exclusive club that has hosted a Super Bowl (in 2006) and a Final Four (this week).

There are (roughly) eight other cities capable of doing both, and though Detroit has a surprisingly entertaining downtown, it lacks a little in climate and ambience compared to its peers. But if Detroit isn't at the top, who is?

Dallas will join the group when the Cowboys' new stadium is completed (it already has been awarded a Super Bowl and a Final Four). The others currently active: Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Phoenix and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

To broaden the field a bit, we'll also consider cities with demonstrated experience holding one or the other as well as early-round basketball games and football bowls.

Two sites that would have been on this list -- Los Angeles and San Francisco -- lack the facilities required to host these events these days, with the last Super Bowls played there at the Rose Bowl (1993) and Stanford Stadium (1985).

That also knocks out cities such as Chicago, Las Vegas and New York, which obviously remain prime contenders for All-Star Games and the like. Still, that tends to narrow things a bit, so here are the five best cities for the biggest sporting events -- Tuesday's Top Five:

5. Phoenix

It's a hike out to Glendale, Ariz., where the new stadium and new arena sit in the middle of undeveloped land. But it's also a great place to visit in the winter.

Perhaps more to the point, there's a wide range of facilities, from the Super Bowl/Final Four-caliber University of Phoenix Stadium to the (new) NHL and (old) NBA arenas to the retractable-roof baseball stadium and occasional bowl venue.

4. San Antonio

If the Alamodome could have successfully lured an NFL team, this festive city would be higher on the list. Alas, it won't be a Super Bowl destination until such time as the league ends up there. A shame.

There are worse places to go over the holidays than the Alamo Bowl, and the downtown Riverwalk, unique history and rolling terrain of the Hill Country make San Antonio a prime spot for sports travel.

3. Tampa Bay

The combined resources of Tampa, Fla., and St. Petersburg, Fla., command a strong presence, with a Super Bowl-caliber football stadium, a Final Four-worthy dome and a relatively new downtown arena for everything else.

Basically, the Tampa Bay region has everything Atlanta does, with better weather and beaches.

2. San Diego

Not a possibility for a Final Four, but as far as Super Bowls and bowl games and NCAA regionals go, it doesn't get much better than this. Balmy weather, beautiful views and relatively easy access make this a vacation destination and a big-event destination.

1. New Orleans

The Superdome may be crumbling and recovery from Katrina ongoing, but with its facilities, hotels, casinos, bars, restaurants and riverfront, the Big Easy remains the ultimate host of the Big Event.

When the Super Bowl or Final Four is in town, it's Mardi Gras every day.

luke.decock@newsobserver.com, (919) 829-8947 or blogs.newsobserver.com/decock

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