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San Francisco favored to host 50th Super Bowl

By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - San Francisco is favored to be named the host city for the 50th Super Bowl when National Football League (NFL) owners vote Tuesday on the site of the 2016 championship game.

The Californian city, home to the NFL's 49ers, is up against South Florida (Miami) while Houston will compete with the losing bid for the 2017 game, which will also be decided on Tuesday.

All the focus, however, is on the prestige of hosting the 50th anniversary game, which the NFL is promising to make the biggest and best finale ever.

The San Francisco Bay Area has hosted one Super Bowl, in 1985, while the Miami area has enjoyed the economic boost from hosting the NFL's championship game a record-tying 10 times, most recently in 2010.

But that extra experience appears to be the only obvious advantage Miami has.

The NFL has said for several years that they wanted to see upgrades made to the 26-year-old Miami Gardens venue but a bid by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to get state funding for a major redevelopment failed and the billionaire has made it clear he will not fund the changes alone.

That setback has left the South Florida bid committee talking about a 'Plan B' with the existing stadium but they have been badly damaged by the dropping of the planned upgrade.

"Following the Miami Dolphins' failure to secure public funding for renovations ... San Francisco sits in the driver's seat," Albert Breer wrote on the NFL website on Monday.

While the South Florida bid is now left to focus on downtown events and beachside activities, San Francisco, in contrast, is proudly highlighting the state-of-the-art nature of their $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara set to open next year.

The San Francisco bid, which was presented to the NFL's 32 owners on shiny, new iPads, and which has been backed by some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, such as Apple and Google, promises an unmatched venue.

As well as ultra-luxury suits, Levi's Stadium will feature stadium-wide wifi, streaming video, mobile connectivity, in-seat tablet holders and huge HD video boards measuring over 13,000 square feet.

"I think we will win on our own right," Steve Van Dorn, chief executive of the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce, told the Silicon Valley Mercury News, "I'm feeling very good about it."

If that confidence proves well-placed, Miami would be left to fight Houston for the 2017 game with the Texas city viewed as favorite in that contest.

Houston's indoor Reliant Stadium hosted the Super Bowl in 2004 and is considered superior to Miami's ageing arena and the setback in getting Florida funds for the stadium was seen as a major boost for Houston.

"Certainly what happened doesn't help Miami's bid. There's no doubt about that," Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said. "But that doesn't say that the owners couldn't decide to still go to Miami."

South Florida will hope that being better provided for the week-long build up of events and parties could yet swing a big game their way.

"We're extremely optimistic that our bid is going to set a new level and they're going to have a tough decision to make," Miami bid chairman Rodney Barreto said recently.

"We've put some new things on the table that are really exciting and are exciting for the South Florida area."

Next year's Super Bowl will be played in East Rutherford, New Jersey, at the shared home of the New York Giants and New York Jets while the 2015 game will be played in Glendale, Arizona, at the home of the Arizona Cardinals.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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