Just as Candlestick Park's nationally-televised blackout helped
seal the San Francisco 49ers move south, Sunday's lights-out delay in the
Superdome gave Silicon Valley another reason to tout that it literally has the
power to host the 50th Super Bowl.
The blackout in New Orleans was still largely a mystery Monday, explained only by an unidentified equipment failure that interrupted the nation's most popular TV event for 34 minutes.
It comes as the Bay Area is locked in a high-stakes battle with South Florida to land Super Bowl L in 2016 at the 49ers' new stadium rising in Santa Clara, which boasts its own power plant and electricity service. Local leaders say there's no doubt that the normally unsexy topic of electrical utilities will be at the front of NFL team owners' minds when they pick a winner in May.
"I'm sure we will have talks with the NFL about it, and I'm sure our bid will highlight all the things we can do to make sure that is something that will not happen" here, Daniel Lurie, the head of the Bay Area's Super Bowl bid committee, said before boarding a plane back from New Orleans.
Santa Clara city spokesman Dan Beerman said simply: "Could this happen at the Santa Clara stadium? The short answer is, 'no.' "
The Niners' $1.2 billion stadium, which team owner Jed York has regularly called the "smartest" in the NFL, will be powered by two new electrical substations near the stadium adjacent to the Great America theme park.
Similar substations routinely feed electricity to major companies such as Intel and Yahoo, which require much more power than an NFL stadium and have gone years -- in some cases decades -- without an outage, said officials for Silicon Valley Power, Santa Clara's electrical utility.
Civic officials routinely cite their utility's reliability as a top reason for landing major tech companies such as Applied Materials to build campuses there. The utilities in the commercial district, near the stadium, are underground, reducing potential problems.
Only one substation is needed to power the 68,500-seat stadium, but if one fails, a second one nearby will automatically switch on, said the utility's customer services manager, Larry Owens. If both of them fail, a manual switch can trigger a third power source.
The 49ers also have teamed with NRG Energy to install solar panels atop the suite tower and on top of three bridges leading from the parking lot to the stadium, which will provide extra energy.
Still, an outage could occur, Owens acknowledged. The automatic switch to another power source means the stadium lights can come back on quicker than it took during the roughly half-hour delays at the Superdome and Candlestick, Owens said.
NFL owners on May 21 will meet to select either the Santa Clara stadium or Sun Life stadium near Miami, where the Dolphins play, to host Super Bowl L in 2016, with the loser competing with Houston for the following Super Bowl.
The NFL requires host cities to submit specifications outlining the stadium's electrical capacity, backup measures to prevent power outages and a recovery plan to get the lights back on in the event of a failure.
A league spokesman did not return messages seeking further comment, though Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday the league anticipates returning for a Super Bowl in New Orleans despite the mishap.
New Orleans officials said Monday they have ruled out Beyonce's half-time show and excessive power demand inside the Superdome as potential causes of the delay.
Last February, the NFL awarded the Santa Clara stadium $200 million in financing, guaranteeing the start of construction, just two months after two embarrassing blackouts at Candlestick Park during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.
Owens said that city and team officials and engineers will again analyze various "what-if" scenarios, as it did after the Candlestick outages, in the wake of the Superdome power failure to make sure its system is "robust."
Yet what Silicon Valley has in technology, South Florida has in experience, said Rodney Barreto, head of the Miami Super Bowl bid committee. He noted the region has hosted 10 previous Super Bowls, and has not suffered any power outages during any of the games.
"We've been there, done that; we're proven," Barreto said. "This is what we do in South Florida."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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