MIAMI — It's appropriate the Super Bowl to end droughts will take place in Miami.
The Kansas City Chiefs are playing in the game for the first time in 50 years against the San Francisco 49ers, who have a chance to win their first NFL title in 25 years. The game is returning to Miami for the first time in a decade, lured back after a stadium renovation that cost more than $550 million.
The Who wouldn't recognize the stadium. The classic rock band performed at halftime the last time the Super Bowl took place in Miami, 10 years ago as the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV.
Now the game is back for the 11th time, the most of any city, as the NFL concludes its centennial season on Feb. 2 with Super Bowl LIV between the AFC champion Chiefs (14-4) and the NFC champion 49ers (15-3). Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. and Fox will televise the game.
"We're thrilled to be back in Miami," said Peter O'Reilly, NFL executive vice president of league events and club business development. "It feels like the right way to finish this 100th season, because we've had so many great games here."
Miami is where Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi won his final NFL title in the second Super Bowl; where Joe Namath delivered on his guarantee as the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts the following year; and where prolific passers Peyton Manning and Drew Brees won their first championship rings.
However, the stadium the Dolphins call home, which opened in 1987 and is actually in suburban Miami Gardens, needed a significant makeover to remain part of the Super Bowl rotation. Team owner Stephen Ross, who also owns the venue — known as Hard Rock Stadium since 2016 — spent his own money on the multiyear renovation.
"The Super Bowl would not be here had it not been for massive private investment by the Dolphins," said Rolando Aedo, an executive with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Ten years between Super Bowls matched the longest such stretch for the area.
"It was painful," said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee. "But all credit to Stephen Ross, who wrote the big check to modernize the stadium."
Upgrades included new seats, suites, concessions, bathrooms, pedestrian bridges and tunnels, and a canopy to protect spectators from sun and rain.
New trees and plazas transformed the grounds into much more than a parking lot, and the complex is now the home of the Miami Open tennis tournament. The stadium in the suburb of Miami Gardens also plays host to the college football championship, Miami Hurricanes games, international soccer matches and concerts.
"It's maybe the only place in world where you can see Patrick Mahomes, Serena Williams, Lionel Messi and Jay-Z all in the same venue," said Tom Garfinkel, the Dolphins' president and CEO.
While the stadium looks much different from 10 years ago, when Brees and the Saints beat Manning and the Colts in the title game, the Super Bowl has changed, too.
The activities held in conjunction with the game will spread out to the city's MLB and NBA teams. Opening night will be Monday at Marlins Park, Super Bowl LIVE is a free fan event in downtown Miami's Bayfront Park and a three-night music festival is planned at the Miami Heat's arena. Those events didn't exist a decade ago.
In addition, the Super Bowl Experience will turn the Miami Beach Convention Center into an amusement park.
"There are so many things to do even if you're not in the stadium on game day," O'Reilly said. "The week has evolved a lot since 2010. It has really become a nine-day celebration leading up to the game."
Miami has changed, too. The weather may be hotter and the traffic worse than 10 years ago, but there has also been a revival of downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. There are new museums and condo towers, and huge construction cranes dot the handsome skyline.
"We urbanized our downtown," Barretto said. "Ten years ago you wouldn't see people out after 8 at night. Now at 11 at night, you see them walking their dogs.
"These neighborhoods that were in their infancy 10 years ago now have nightlife. And Miami Beach is still Miami Beach. We're excited about people coming to see all the new things."
Word will spread — the NFL has accredited more than 6,000 media members from about 25 countries. For Miami, Aedo said, the benefits of such attention are incalculable.
"There's always lot of discussion about economic impact, but the amount of coverage around the globe is priceless," he said. "And Miami, more than any other U.S. city, is global."
Miami is also a playground for the wealthy, who will bring their private jets to town and make up much of the crowd on Super Sunday.
"It's corporate America; it's not Joe Football Fan," Barreto said. "There will be hardcore football fans there, but this will be major corporations entertaining their top partners and salespeople. Its like an open checkbook, the money being spent."
Everyone involved in hosting the big game agrees 10 years without a Super Bowl is too long. Garfinkel laughed when asked about Miami's chances of landing the February 2025 title contest, the next one to be awarded by the NFL.
"We'll definitely put our name in the hat when the time comes," Garfinkel said. "We want to put on a good show first."
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