A SUPER CITY HOSTS The Super Bowl
Houston Gets First-Class Rankings From Outside And From Those Who Know It Best
By Mara Soloway
Houston will host Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 at NRG Stadium. This most watched of annual sporting events in the U.S. draws hundreds of millions of viewers, and brings unprecedented media attention and a substantial economic impact to the host city. Some of the relevant numbers of 51st Super Bowl include:
- 10,000 volunteers will be onhand.
- 140,000 out-of-town visitors are expected.
- 1 million people are expected to attend some component of the Super Bowl experience over the 10-day period.
- $350 million net economic impact on Houston.
- 84,000 hotel rooms in the Houston area, up from around 44,000 in 2004 when Houston last hosted
- $4 million (approximately) will go to nonprofits in the region through the NFL’s Charitable Giving Program.
- 118 players who grew up in Houston and Southeast Texas have gone on to play in the Super Bowl, with at least one player competing in 48 of the last 50 Super Bowls. Five (Darrell Green, Mike Singletary, Michael Strahan, Emmitt Thomas, Thurman Thomas) have become members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Super is a superlative that can be applied to the game’s 2017 host city. Houston is lauded far and wide for its first-rate attributes and numerous outstanding aspects. Its most ardent supporter, Mayor Sylvester Turner, calls it one of the most dynamic, vibrant cities in the world.
“A lot has changed since the last time we hosted the Super Bowl in 2004. For starters, we are now the most diverse metropolitan area in the nation. With more than 145 different languages spoken here, you can, literally, sample all the different cultures of the world without leaving our city limits,” the mayor says.
“We’ve transformed our airports, added hundreds of new hotel rooms, expanded the George R. Brown Convention Center and developed Discovery Green — a premier Downtown park facility and event site that is Houston’s version of Central Park. Our cultural diversity, award-winning restaurants, vibrant nightlife, theaters, museums and beautiful downtown are second to none. It all combines to make Houston a forward-thinking destination for culture and sports fans alike. We are the city where southern hospitality meets urban chic!”
Mayor Turner echoes the numerous rankings that Houston receives for its quality of life. Two general pluses in this column are that a paycheck goes farther in Houston than any other major metropolitan area, and Houston has more parks than any other Top 10 metropolitan area (both rankings from Business Insider 2014).
If you already thought of Houston as a city filled with smart people, you’re exactly right: it ranked No. 6 on Forbes America’s New Brainpower Cities (2014). It was also No. 1 in The New York Times Top Destination Cities For College Graduates (2014).
Some of those college grads come from highly ranked Rice University and from the University of Houston System. Chancellor Renu Khator says Houston is the place to be if you have a dream that something is possible or if you want to build something bigger than yourself. “Houston is entrepreneurial and innovative and it reflects and inspires who we are. As an institution, we dream bigger than ourselves because of our great city. Here, people take challenges even when the odds are stacked against them,” the chancellor says.
“It is a place to make your own tracks and write your own history, take risks and realize your full potential. We have certainly benefitted from that at the University of Houston and, in turn, proudly supported that tradition. UH gets its potential from Houston’s people and businesses and spirit. I came here because of the capacity of Houston as a place to build a dream and compete nationally, and I am proud to lead a Tier One institution in the heart of this super city.”
Among Houston’s No. 1 rankings are that it is the most charitable city in the country (Forbes and Charity Navigator 2016). Brian Greene, president/CEO of the Houston Food Bank, knows that well.
“What makes Houston a special place is the prevalent belief that we can make good things happen. This positive attitude was a major part of our origin story, and as success has piled upon success, has become ingrained in the culture here,” Greene says.
“As someone who has made his life’s work the fight to improve lives for those less fortunate, I can’t tell you how much that has made our successes possible. Houston has the resources, the compassion, but most of all the optimism that a better future for all is possible. That is why we keep getting better.”
Houston’s business accomplishments include being The Best City In America by Business Insider (2013); No. 1 in Forbes Most Competitive Metros In America (2014).
Need a job? Houston ranked No. 2 in Career Builder’s Top Cities To Find A Job (2015) and No. 2 in Forbes Top Labor Markets In The U.S. (2015). It is also No. 4 best city for entrepreneurs by Money-Rates.com (2016).
As for the arts and entertainment category, visitors in town for Super Bowl LI might be happy to know Houston ranked the No. 6 best party hub in the U.S. by Wanderu (2016). Travel + Leisure ranked Houston No. 3 in America’s Most Cultured Cities 2015. Richard Bado, Houston Grand Opera chorus master since 1988, can relate to that stat.
“As a resident of Houston for 33 years, I find Houston’s desire for excellence in all areas the key to making us a super city. We are never satisfied with just being good or passable. In areas of the arts, sports, education, medicine and business we have a need to be the best. And we are proud of the successes of other groups in town, regardless of whether or not we are active participants in that area. For example, Bob McNair, owner of the Texans, is also an avid opera lover and supporter. A former board president of Houston Grand Opera, he and his wife Janice have underwritten our Holiday Opera Series,” Bado says.
“The most recent opera in the series was last December’s world premiere of an opera based on It’s a Wonderful Life, written by Jake Heggie, the most popular living opera composer. This event was not only a great gift to Houston audiences, but it also showed the world how Houston is leading the way.”
Mark Hanson, Houston Symphony’s executive director/CEO, appreciates how friendly, forward-thinking and optimistic the city of Houston is. “Houstonians are curious, open-minded and want the very best for themselves and their neighbors. As a result of that, they are very supportive of and engaged with organizations such as the Houston Symphony, which aspires to serve and uplift the community in new and exciting ways,” he says.
Houston has six professional major league teams: the Houston Astros (MLB), Houston Texans (NFL), Houston Rockets (NBA), Houston Dynamo (MLS), Houston Dash (National Women’s Soccer League), and Scrap Yard Dawgs (National Pro Fastpitch softball) – a women’s professional softball team based in The Woodlands. More than 30 minor league and semi-professional teams are based in the area.
Christian Covington played college football for the Rice University Owls and is now a defensive end for the Houston Texans. He feels Houston is truly a city that has everything. “If you like the busy downtown lifestyle that comes with the city, it’s perfect. If you like the nightlife, it’s perfect. If you like the suburban setting, it’s perfect. If you like sports venues and professional teams and to be able to watch a lot of great college football teams compete, it’s a perfect city,” he says.
“It truly has everything and truly encompasses the spirit of the Houston people – we’re a very diverse and and very multicultural. It’s a very accepting city.”
It also strives for improvement. The category of new development taking place in Houston is constantly changing. But for today, consider the completed Hobby International Airport expansion that will help accommodate international flights to and from Houston and the relatively complete Avenida Houston developments that bring vibrancy to the convention district.
Museum development includes the Lone Star Flight Museum’s planned relocation from Galveston to Houston’s Ellington Airport, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston Expansion and the ongoing Menil Collection Drawing Institute and Master Plan.
Houston’s iconic greenspace, Memorial Park, is undergoing master planning as is the Houston Botanic Garden.
Houston’s insiders give the city high rankings for its many dynamic facets. And outside entities mirror what we already know about our metro area. Forbes ranked Houston as the No. 1 Fastest-Growing Cities (2016), and substantiating that is the U.S. Census’ report, Houston Tops Census List On New Metro Area Residents – Adding 156,371 Residents From 2013 – 2014 (2015).
Fitting for a leader in space exploration, Houston is on the list of American Cities of The Future from investment magazine FDI Intelligence (2015). The secret about Houston as a super place to be is out.
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For the game countdown clock and everything you need to know leading up to game day, visit housuperbowl.com.
The Houston Super Bowl Host Committee has been working for the last year to plan numerous super events. For all events and more info, visit housuperbowl.com/calendar.
Super Bowl Live
Saturday, Jan. 28, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. and various other dates at Discovery Green. This free fan festival will be held in and around Discovery Green for nine days leading up to Super Bowl LI.
NFL Experience Driven By Genesis
Saturday, Jan. 28, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 29, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. ; Thursday, Feb. 2, 3 – 10 p.m. and various other dates at the George R. Brown Convention Center. This is pro football’s interactive theme park and offers fans interactive games, youth football clinics, player autograph, more.
NFL Opening Night
Monday, Jan. 30, 7-10 p.m. at Minute Maid Park.
This will be the first time the players and coaches meet with the media in Houston. The event will also feature live musical performances, special appearances and more.
Legends For Charity
Thursday, Feb. 2, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis Downtown. Join NFL and broadcast celebrities at this benefit for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Ditka And Jaws Cigar Party
Thursday, Feb. 2, 7 – 11 p.m. at the Irish Cowboy, Downtown.The Ditka & Jaws Cigars with the Stars features many football celebrities to keep you and your guests entertained.
Super Bowl Gospel Celebration
Friday, Feb. 3, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Lakewood Church. The event brings key NFL players and top artists together on one stage for uplifting music and inspirational messages.
Bruno Mars In Concert
Friday, Feb. 3, 7:30 – 11:30 p.m.; location TBD.
Athletes In Action Breakfast
Saturday, Feb. 4, 8 – 11 a.m. at the Marriott Marquis Downtown. The NFL-sanctioned event draws sellout crowds to hear from some of sport’s biggest names.
Saturday, Feb. 4, 7 – 10 p.m. at Wortham Center.
The NFL’s end-of-season awards are announced at this event, along with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 that will be inducted in July in Canton, Ohio.
Taste Of The NFL
Saturday, Feb. 4, 7 – 10 p.m. at the University of Houston. The Taste of the NFL’s annual strolling wine and food event features a chef from each NFL city serving their signature dish alongside a current or alumni NFL player.
Rankings and Super Bowl LI numbers courtesy Visit HoustonTexas.com.
At the Downtown Aquarium. (Photo – Visit Houston (Julie Soefer)