The Super Bowl is returning to the South Bay in 2026, and local movers and shakers hope to get the region more shine than it received last time around, when San Francisco drew the lion’s share of the fans and revenue.
Some leaders suggest San Jose and its boosters should work to undercut and outcompete San Francisco, while others want more collaboration to increase the whole area’s wealth, according to interviews with officials and email conversations obtained by San José Spotlight.
The annual NFL event will come to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the second time in a decade, and the venue will also host FIFA World Cup matches in 2026, as well.
While officials are quick to note the NFL and FIFA maintain tight control over their events and ancillary activities, there is already interest in ensuring more visitors, attention and money from these attractions make their way into San Jose and surrounding South Bay cities.
“I’m optimistic, but there is still a lot of work to do,” Jonathan Becher, president of Sharks Sports and Entertainment, the parent organization of the San Jose Sharks hockey team, told San José Spotlight.
Becher is a board member of the Bay Area Host Committee, a group charged with attracting and helping to ensure the success of major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Cup and the 2025 NBA All-Star Game, which will be held at Chase Center in San Francisco.
The 2016 Super Bowl at Levi’s Stadium brought about $240 million of estimated economic impact to the Bay Area, according to a report by research firm Sportsimpacts. But Santa Clara, where the stadium is located, only saw about 7% of that benefit. San Jose was just a bit ahead at 12%, and San Francisco pulled in about 57% of the rewards.
“I am an unabashed supporter of San Jose and the South Bay. We did not get enough coverage, I wish there had been more events in the South Bay,” Becher said about 2016. “We’re trying to make it better. Will we get everything we want? Quite frankly, probably not.”
Becher acknowledged the infrastructure in San Francisco is better for big events, with San Jose having fewer major hotels downtown and other meeting or conference spaces.
Though he said some things have improved over the past decade, such as television broadcasts of 49ers games, which often features video of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. More recently, the broadcasts included shots of Stanford University, tech campuses in Santa Clara like Nvidia and images of the South Bay hills and tract housing.
Some San Jose proponents have been considering ways to beat out San Francisco for months, according to documents obtained by San José Spotlight.
Michael Van Every, president of development firm Republic Urban Properties, in a May email chain which included San Jose officials, questioned why San Francisco would get so much of the sales and hotel taxes when the Super Bowl is being held in Santa Clara County.
“I think San Jose has more going than SF in 2023 and beyond,” Van Every wrote. “Maybe we can look to work with Team San Jose and the hotels to create some packages and look to undercut SF. There add-on taxes are out of control.”
The email chain included Willow Glen real estate investor Michael Mulcahy, developers Gary Dillabough, Case Swenson and Chuck Toeniskoetter, head of Tarana Wireless government affairs Carl Guardino, who is a government affairs policy advocate and former CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Nanci Klein, the city’s economic development director, as well as Earthquakes Chief Operations Officer Jed Mettee, 49ers President Al Guido and Becher from the Sharks, among others.
Ideas in the chain to better promote San Jose run the gamut from airport awareness, music festivals at SAP Center, food festivals, tech showcases, pickleball tournaments, community charity events and a Super Bowl television ad for the city.
The chain email was started by Steve Wymer, a former eBay executive previously linked to a stalking campaign who advised former Mayor Sam Liccardo and has continued in an advisory role for Mayor Matt Mahan—whose team was forwarded the email chain.
“We’re working closely with the Bay Area Host Committee to ensure San Jose is a prominent part of the Super Bowl LX fan experience,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “I for one cannot wait for sports fans from all over to get a taste of the opportunity, innovation and diversity that defines our city.”
For Zaileen Janmohamed, president and CEO of the Bay Area Host Committee, ideas, energy and enthusiasm around the sporting events are pluses, but she said collaboration will be the key to long-term success.
“We need to find ways for the Bay Area to play nice with each other. This notion of undercutting, or feeling like one side is superior… does not align with what I’m trying to do, which is actually connecting the Bay,” Janmohamed told San José Spotlight. “I think the pie will grow even larger if we work together, versus if we actually try to compete with each other.”
It’s still too early to say where all affiliated events for the 2026 Super Bowl will be held, Janmohamed added, as the NFL doesn’t begin major planning until after the coming Super Bowl is passed.
Dillabough, co-founder and CEO of development firm Urban Community, which is heavily invested in downtown San Jose agreed there should be more collaboration. He told San José Spotlight these events are major opportunities, and the city should have a full-time marketing officer to help create more happenings.
“I think it’s not just about FIFA or the Super Bowl, it’s about a larger issue of how do we market San Jose in a more productive way. In my view, the city has immeasurable assets that we just haven’t marketed in a really effective way,” Dillabough told San José Spotlight.
Becher also hopes the South Bay enthusiasm from the events continues beyond 2026.
“I don’t want it to be episodic. This can’t just be everyone getting together for the Super Bowl and then disappearing again,” Becher said. “San Jose needs a constant stream of support from all of us to keep growing the city. I think we have a huge opportunity.”