SoFi Stadium to Host Super Bowl LVI in February 2022 Whether or Not It Opens in 2020
Jason B. Hirschhorn
LOS ANGELES -- Even if the coronavirus crisis prevents SoFi Stadium from opening in time for the 2020 season, it will still host Super Bowl LVI in February 2022.
The stay-at-home order California issued in response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has halted all but the essential parts of public life for the foreseeable future, putting projects like the SoFi Stadium project in jeopardy of missing its scheduled completion date. While construction on the future home of the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams will continue for now, the situation remains fluid and a significant delay could occur and prevent the venue from opening in time for the 2020 NFL season.
A suspension of the stadium construction could have short- and long-term ramifications. In addition to leaving the Chargers and Rams scrambling to find a replacement venue for 2020, a delay could also affect the NFL's plans for Super Bowl LVI, currently set to take place at SoFi Stadium at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
But at least for now, the league does not intend to make any changes. When asked about how construction delays might affect plans for Super Bowl LVI, NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy told Sports Illustrated that SoFi Stadium would host the game regardless of whether it opens in time for the 2020 season.
"There's been absolutely no discussion of moving [Super Bowl LVI]," McCarthy says.
Customarily, the NFL does not allow new stadiums to host Super Bowls during its first year of operation, preferring instead to give each facility at least one season to identify and iron out any unforeseen issues first before hosting after the second year at the earliest. The league has applied this approach to every stadium opened over the last 15 years.
In most recent cases, new venues receive the Super Bowl following their second season of operation, with Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium (opened 2017), Minneapolis' U.S. Bank Stadium (2016), and Santa Clara's Levi's Stadium (2014) each following that model. The NFL intended SoFi Stadium to become the latest example of that approach.
And though construction continues on SoFi Stadium, work could stop at any time. A memo from the project's management states that if prescribed health and safety guidelines for workers "cannot be met and a project is in tight quarters, consideration should be given to shutting the construction project down until safer conditions exist."
The league has once already pushed the Los Angeles Super Bowl back a year after the initial target date due to weather-related delays in construction. But even if the Rams and Chargers have not moved into the new building in time for the 2020 season, the NFL seems prepared to waive its own policy in part because the venue will house two teams simultaneously.
"There's two teams playing in the stadium which gets the facility even more reps," McCarthy notes.
Though that would leave less runway to address potential concerns like field conditions and traffic flow, it would give stadium operations the chance to tackle other issues that could present themselves.
While the league will allow SoFi Stadium to host Super Bowl LVI even if it doesn't open as currently scheduled, that scenario may never come to pass. Turner AECOM Hunt, the general contractor for the project, has sent all non-essential workers home while it implemented increased health and safety measures for those who remain on-site. If completed on time and if public officials have cleared the way for public gatherings, SoFi Stadium will debut with a Taylor Swift concert on July 25.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH