HOUSTON >> Back to the desert, and back to Britain, for the NFL.
The league awarded the 2015 Super Bowl to Arizona on Tuesday and also committed to playing regular-season games in Britain through 2016 — with more than one game a year likely.
The first owners meeting since the lockout focused almost exclusively on big events, with the biggest of them all heading to the Phoenix area in four years. Arizona beat out Tampa, the only other candidate, on the second ballot.
"We are thrilled to be back in Arizona," Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "I will say it was a difficult choice."
Though not a unique one like the Super Bowls that will sandwich 2015. In ’14, the league makes a frosty foray into the New York/New Jersey area for the first outdoor title game in a cold-weather site since the merger. And in 2016, the 50th Super Bowl will be, according to Goodell, "a significant event for us" and could wind up in Los Angeles.
"I don’t think there is anything off the table on who would host it," Goodell said, noting that the league is keeping close tabs on two potential stadium projects in Los Angeles.
"We think there are two opportunities in Los Angeles and we are going to pursue both of them aggressively," Goodell said.
Neither Arizona nor Tampa received the required 24 of 32 votes on the first ballot Tuesday, meaning a simple majority was needed on the next vote. The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale got the nod, prompting screams of joy from the Arizona committee.
"Everyone pulled together throughout the Phoenix area to put together a terrific package we were able to present to the owners," Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said. "We are delighted."
It’s difficult to be critical of the choice weather-wise: average temperature in early February in Glendale is about 60 degrees. In East Rutherford, N.J., site of the 2014 game, the average is a slightly chillier 31 degrees.
The NFL also set Feb. 2, 2014, as the date of the Super Bowl in New Jersey; that date will not conflict with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"It’s historically warmer on Feb. 2," Giants owner John Mara said with a smile. He didn’t mention the possibility of snow, freezing rain, blustery winds and all the accompanying elements.
That will not be a factor in Arizona. The NFL has seemed eager to return to the Valley of the Sun since the Giants’ upset of the then-unbeaten Patriots on Feb. 3, 2008. Tempe, Ariz., was the 1996 host, with Dallas defeating Pittsburgh 27-17.
"This is huge for Arizona," bid leader Mike Kennedy said. "It feels really satisfying."
Tampa hosted the game in 1984, 1991, 2001 and 2009.
"Both cities are great sites for the Super Bowl and both had impressive bids," added Mara, whose team has won championships in both places. "They’ve each been to the altar a few times recently and were denied. They both deserve to host a game again."
Next year’s game is indoors in Indianapolis, followed by New Orleans in 2013 and then the Big (possibly frozen) Apple.
Goodell spoke with the Tampa Bay group immediately after it lost the bidding.
"Anytime we are invited to participate, we will do so," said Paul Catoe, outgoing CEO of Tampa Bay & Co.
Bidwill said the estimated economic impact in Arizona in 2008 was more than $500 million, and he expects it to be higher in 2015. While that number seems high because subsequent Super Bowls didn’t reach that level, it’s still a major boon to local business.
Also Tuesday, owners approved a resolution to play regular-season games in Britain for at least five more seasons. Teams can volunteer to play at least one regular-season home game per year in Britain for up to five years. Goodell said several teams have expressed interest and there are financial incentives for hosting games overseas. Visiting teams can play abroad only once in five years.
Tampa Bay will host Chicago on Oct. 23 in London, the fifth straight year the NFL has held an October game there. The Buccaneers will be making their second London appearance in three years; they lost to New England 35-7 in 2009.
Several teams that struggle to sell out home games, such as the Jaguars, Raiders, Bengals and Chargers, could be in line for more frequent trips overseas. Houston Texans owner Robert McNair said he’d be interested in a trip to Britain as the visiting team.
No specifics on venues, dates or teams for future games have been set, but Goodell made it clear more games in London are coming, perhaps two as soon as next season.
"We are very pleased with the reception to the game and the way our business has grown over there," he said. "Can it be sustained for multiple games?"
The meetings began with a five-minute NFL Films tribute to Al Davis after the Oakland Raiders owner died on Saturday.