If there’s anything that we can be grateful for regarding Deflategate it’s that it buried news of the annual debate over the inflated figures a Super Bowl brings to the host city. Still, this year’s host, Glenadale, Ariz., is not so happy about those numbers, and may be saying to future host cites (such as the Twin Cities in 2018), “Super Bowl buyer beware.”
The Super Bowl and all its hoopla and fans and money and frenzy descended on Glendale this week, yet the city’s mayor, Jerry Weiers, is not totally enamored of all the giddiness. Every year, promises are heard of hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity surrounding the Super Bowl in each host city, but many say those numbers are exaggerated and much of it is difficult to quantify, and once the NFL leaves town, they aren’t really concerned in tracking it. They are on to the next town.
“I totally believe we lose money on this,” Weiers told ESPN the Magazine.
The host city and state are always very generous when it comes to putting on the big game, shelling out millions of dollars themselves for infrastructure, logistics and public safety, in hopes of recouping it in revenue from the money spent by 100,000 visitors coming in town for the week. Unfortunately, when the Super Bowl arrives, it is not unlike the circus coming to town, as much of the economic activity is transpired between the NFL and its invited guests rather than the local economy—and it leaves tucked away in the NFL coffers. People coming for the Super Bowl will likely buy more NFL licensed souvenirs than they do little cactuses from gift shops that they can bring home and put on their plant shelf—unless those cacti have little SB XLIX’s printed on them.
Now it should be stated that Glendale is in a unique situation when it comes to hosting a Super Bowl, since the city and Phoenix Stadium are located 20 minutes from the epicenter of where all the economic activity is designed to take place in Phoenix/Scottsdale. Weiers learned from the city’s hosting of the Super Bowl in 2008 that the majority of the buying, eating, drinking and lodging revenue takes place in the big city and never really makes it to Glendale.
Similarly, at the 2014 Super Bowl in New York City—which was held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford—host state New Jersey lost out on plenty of revenue since all the hoopla took place in the Big Apple. What’s to say that the same thing can’t happen in between Minneapolis and St. Paul?
Well, St. Paul is already making plans to capture the attention of Super Bowl visitors despite most of the action taking place in the shadow of that glimmering new edifice being constructed across the river in downtown Minneapolis. St. Paul has the Winter Carnival events, plus they have plans for a big ice castle downtown and the Red Bull Crashed Ice skating races, which has become a winter staple in the city. Not to be outdone, Bloomington, with the Mall of America as a huge attraction, will certainly want to get in on the act.
The truth be told, the triad of cities will likely be needed just to house the visitors who will be coming to town. A look back on the projections of visitors for the Super Bowl that took place here in 1992, experts were predicting 58,000 visitors coming to Minneapolis, close to just half of the 100,000 in Arizona as we speak. In Minnesota, the Super Bowl will be a case of no metro city left behind.
Another advantage that the Twin Cities has over Glendale, the visitors are coming to town during the dead of winter, when few if any visitors typically head to the snow-covered tundra. The visitors to Arizona are crowding out other visitors who certainly would be looking for a place to golf in Scottsdale this time of year. The Twin Cities will be awash in “found money” in 2018, as the New York Times called it in 1992.
Therefore, even though this is the frozen north, and some of the usual Super Bowl revelers might stay away because of that fact, we should take some of the grumbling from Glendale with a grain of salt (and then put it on the roads here for better traction). A Minneapolis Super Bowl should do fine. But what we should be concerned about are all the revenue projections that come out every year and are fuzzy calculations at best.
“We have guaranteed that [more than] 100,000 visitors will descend on this community, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity,” members of the Super Bowl committee told the Star Tribune after they won the bid last summer.
We need to remember that while parking, lodging, bar and restaurant revenue will come here to stay, plenty of monies do not—and it is hard to say how much more of the promised “hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity” stays. Since the NFL has tax-exempt status, its employees don’t have to pay local sales taxes for their dinner or hotel while they are working in Minnesota during Super Bowl week. According to the website SportsOnEarth.com, that resulted in a loss of $800,000 in sales tax revenue for New Orleans in 2013.
Furthermore, there are always assurances that having the national (and international) spotlight shining on the Twin Cities for a week will have all kinds of future benefits. Well, that too is very hard to quantify, and at least one Glendale city official agrees:
“There has not been any corporations that moved to Glendale because the CEO came to the Super Bowl,” former councilwoman Joyce Clark told ESPN the Magazine about the benefits of the publicity.
Once again, Glendale is really doing a service to Phoenix by hosting the Super Bowl for them (and here is hoping that Phoenix makes it worth their while). My guess is that the Twin Cities has done a better job of making this more of a metro-area Super Bowl than just a Minneapolis-based one. With the city having been through the experience once, it is doubtful they would join together again if it wasn’t beneficial to everyone.
From a personnel perspective, I had a press pass in 1992 and went to the media gatherings. It was great at the time (I had a blast putting on a Velcro suit and jumping into and sticking to a Velcro wall, until I pulled my face away and it ripped out of some my beard). At the time, I thought the whole week would be a once in a lifetime experience—and it will be interesting to see how the event will be ratcheted up in 2018. The NFL Experience was worth checking out at the Convention Center back in 1992—which was the first time it had ever been held—and it should be even better this time around.
In the final analysis, I am more doubtful of all the economic gain that is promised to the area (although it’s safe to say the Twin Cities will do better than Glendale), but I am excited to see what happens when the Super Bowl returns for a second time. It’s hard to look away when the circus is in town.
Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.com, covers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.