With the official announcement that the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium will host Super Bowl LX in 2026, a sense of jubilation is pervading the region, a much-needed injection of positive national attention amid all the sobering news of tech layoffs and population declines.
San Jose’s political and business leaders are applauding the decision, but remain a bit leery. They hope it won’t be a repeat of Super Bowl 50 in 2016 when America’s most popular sport shone its spotlight heavily on San Francisco, leaving the South Bay city in the shadows with a small slice of the financial windfall — and a bit of a bruised ego.
“While we’re excited about the announcement, in 2016, there was a little disappointment from the businesses here,” said San Jose’s Chamber of Commerce leader Derrick Seaver. John Poch, executive director of the San Jose Sports Authority, said Super Bowl 50 “was focused as San Francisco’s Super Bowl, not San Jose or Santa Clara’s, which is where the crux of the actual game was.”
Whether the city will get more Super Bowl love is still up in the air. When reached for comment, multiple local organizers — as well as a spokesperson for the National Football League — said talks are ongoing on where the game’s many extracurricular events will be held. Decisions are likely to be made within the year.
But one key difference compared to seven years ago may help.
The Board of Directors for the Bay Area Host Committee, a group that works with the NFL to bring the Super Bowl to the region, now includes Sharks president Jonathan Becher and Earthquakes president Jared Shawlee, who could help advocate for San Jose to be the center of gravity for the 2026 Super Bowl.
“I have received a lot of advice and suggestions by those two teams on how to include their venues and how to make sure we’re including their fan base into our plans,” said Zaileen Janmohamed, who heads the host committee. “We want to make sure everyone — the South Bay, the Peninsula, the East Bay and San Francisco — is included in our planning.” Janmohamed said certain San Jose sites — like the SAP Center — are already under consideration for at least some of the big game’s events.
Other members of the Committee include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a partial owner of the Denver Broncos, along with 49ers president Al Guido and Giants president Larry Baer. The group is also helping with Levi’s Stadium’s hosting of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Back in 2016, San Francisco hosted the main slate of fan programming, including the week-long NFL Experience along its downtown Market Street, leading to a deluge of beer-fueled fans coming from all corners of the globe ready to empty their wallets at nearby hotels, restaurants and bars.
Down south, San Jose did end up hosting Super Bowl 50’s Opening Night at the SAP Center — and the two competing teams practiced at local stadiums.
But the numbers don’t lie: Of the $240 million that was brought into the Bay Area’s coffers by Super Bowl 50’s hundreds of thousands of fans, just over a tenth of the total went to San Jose’s local economy, according to city tourism officials. In Santa Clara, home of Levi’s Stadium, that number was a mere 7.2%.
During the lead-up to Super Bowl 50, organizers
“It’s a lesson learned and I hope that we will not repeat that same mistake,” he said.
In San Jose, which recently fell out of the top 10 list of most populated U.S. cities, Mayor Matt Mahan says he’s determined to make the South Bay a major destination during the upcoming Super Bowl.
“We want to be the center of the fan experience,” he said. “We understand we’re competing with other cities, but I think San Jose has a very strong case to make.”
The mayor’s pitch? An airport that’s just a 10-minute drive from the stadium, a convention center and hotel infrastructure with capacity for thousands of potential fans and the claim that homelessness and crime are less of an issue in San Jose compared to its neighbor up north.
But maybe the most convincing argument? None of that pesky San Francisco fog.