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Super Bowl will return to New Orleans in 2013

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- New Orleans is a Super Bowl city again.

NFL owners voted Tuesday to play Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 in New Orleans, the first time the championship game will be held in the city since Hurricane Katrina shredded parts of the Louisiana Superdome, home to the Saints. The hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast four years ago and caused 1,600 deaths.

New Orleans beat out Miami, which sought a record 11th Super Bowl, and 2008 host Glendale, Ariz. It will be New Orleans' 10th time as a Super Bowl site.

"We're just thrilled about what's going on," Saints owner Tom Benson said. "We're getting a new Superdome. Now we're going to get a Super Bowl on top of that. It couldn't be any more exciting than that."

New Orleans last hosted a Super Bowl in 2002, when Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal as time expired lifted the New England Patriots over the St. Louis Rams.

Benson said he was congratulated by the owners, even those who saw Super Bowl bids for their city be voted down.

"All are great Super Bowl cities," said Rita Benson LeBlanc, Tom Benson's granddaughter and a part owner of the Saints. "But no city has been through more than New Orleans. ... This is just a true testament to what an entire community can do."

Still unclear: Where will the 2013 Pro Bowl be played? It's coming to Miami one week before this coming season's Super Bowl, then going back to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012. It wasn't part of the bidding process for the 2013 Super Bowl.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross congratulated New Orleans, but he also said he was "disappointed" that the 2013 game isn't coming to South Florida. Shortly after the vote was announced, local organizers said South Florida was hopeful of bidding for the 2014 Super Bowl as well.

"I think South Florida is the best place for the Super Bowl," Ross said. "In my opinion, it should be here permanently."

Louisiana lawmakers already have approved plans to spend $85 million in Superdome upgrades, which would be completed in time for the 2013 Super Bowl. The upgrades would include additional seating, new suites, wider concourses and other measures for the Saints to generate new revenue streams.

"The membership heard from three great cities today and had some terrific alternatives," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "But I think this is a great statement about the spirit and people of New Orleans and the great relationship the Saints and the NFL have in that community."

The Superdome played an iconic role during Hurricane Katrina, which struck the city in August 2005. It was an evacuation center during the storm, housing thousands of people who had nowhere else to go. Within days, the building was tattered, filthy inside from mold, debris and raw sewage.

The Saints needed to leave their home city, then returned to great fanfare in September 2006 -- a night many in New Orleans point to as perhaps the most poignant sign that normalcy was slowly returning.

"(That) had an emotional impact on this city that carried the hearts of New Orleanians for the next two years," said J. Stephen Perry, the president of the New Orleans metropolitan convention and visitors bureau. "And this announcement today, I will tell you, will have jubilation in the streets."

The stories of suffering are still everywhere. Even now, some people who lost nearly everything in 2005 are fighting to keep their federally provided trailers a bit longer.

Still, New Orleans clearly didn't forget how to host an event. College football's national championship game was played there in 2008, followed about six weeks later by the NBA All-Star Game -- and now football's biggest spectacle.

"This is a huge win for New Orleans but also the entire state of Louisiana," Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

Arizona also failed in bids for the 2011 and 2012 Super Bowls, which were awarded to new stadiums in North Texas and Indianapolis.

Cities mentioned as hopefuls for the 2014 Super Bowl include Tampa, Fla., and London, which will host a regular-season game for the third straight season when the Patriots play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 25. London officials have been briefed on the Super Bowl bidding process, but the NFL has repeatedly said that no serious talks about an international Super Bowl have taken place.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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