LOS ANGELES (CNS) - SoFi Stadium will become the first stadium to host an NFL conference championship game and a Super Bowl in the same season after the Rams punched their ticket to next week's NFC championship game with a dramatic 30-27 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today in Tampa, Florida.
The NFC title game will be played Sunday at 3:30 p.m., with the Super Bowl following two weeks later on Feb. 13, with kickoff also slated for 3:30 p.m.
The Rams will host the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday. The 49ers upset the top-seeded Green Bay Packers, 13-10, on Saturday night in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Had the Packers won, the Rams would have been traveling to Green Bay on Sunday.
Instead, the Southland's glittering new football palace in Inglewood will now enjoy two moments in the national spotlight.
The stadium officially opened on Sept. 13, 2020, when the Rams hosted the Dallas Cowboys, but no fans were in attendance due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
SoFi Stadium -- which is also home to the NFL's Los Angeles Chargers --
is the most expensive stadium ever built at an estimated cost of about $5.5 billion. It was built on the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack, and sits adjacent to the Forum.
The Rams raced out to a 27-3 lead against the Buccaneers on Sunday, only to see Tampa Bay tie the game with under a minute left. But Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with receiver Cooper Kupp on two long passes to set up kicker Matt Gay's game-winning field goal as time expired.
There was some speculation earlier this month that the league might pull the Super Bowl out of Los Angeles due to the local surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, but officials confirmed on Jan. 6 that the game would go ahead as planned.
Last week, coronavirus concerns led the Recording Academy to move the 64th Grammy Awards ceremony from downtown Los Angeles to Las Vegas, after this year's planned ceremony at Crypto.com Arena had already been postponed. But LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that the Grammys and similar events are held indoors, and a postponement was a reasonable step in light of the increased risk of disease transmission.
County Supervisor Holly Mitchell told reporters there was no logic in moving the game.
"This is an international pandemic. I'm not sure why it would make more sense to have it in Texas," she said.
But Mitchell said holding the event safety will be dependent on the people attending it.
"My plea is to all of those -- local and those who will travel to Inglewood to SoFi Stadium for the Super Bowl -- that you follow our health orders and that you mask," she said. "I would encourage people to get vaccinated and boosted before you come.
"We shouldn't assume that individual decisions don't have the greatest impact in the spread of this virus," she said. "... It's up to the individual to chose to stay masked through the entire game to keep themselves safe and everyone else."
SoFi Stadium is also scheduled to host college football's national championship game in January 2023, WrestleMania 39 in April 2023, and the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as soccer and archery events, for the 2028 Summer Olympics.
If the Rams beat San Francisco, they'll be only the second NFL team to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium, after last year's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1980, the Rams lost a Super Bowl played at the Rose Bowl, but the team played its home games at the Coliseum. In 1985, the 49ers won a Super Bowl held at Stanford Stadium, but the team played its home games at Candlestick Park.
The last time the Super Bowl was played in the Los Angeles area was 1993, when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills at the Rose Bowl. The 2003 Super Bowl was played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Super Bowl LVI could deliver as much as $477.5 million to the Los Angeles economy, including thousands of new job opportunities in the event- production and hospitality sector, plus major contracts for local businesses, according to projections released in October.
"This is going to be such an incredible infusion for our local businesses," Adam Burke, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, said on Jan. 13. "You go back to 2019, tourism has become one of the biggest drivers of our local economy, with over 544,000 Angelenos employed in tourism-related careers, and believe it or not, in 2019 visitors generated $38 billion for our local businesses."