It is the conventional wisdom that any city awarded the opportunity to host the Super Bowl will reap a major financial benefit. But the bloom may be off that rose as the mayor of the city of Glendale, Arizona, now says that they may actually lose money with this year’s game.
Each year cities with NFL stadiums vie to be awarded the site of a future Super Bowl. Potential host cities work to put together packages that will entice the NFL to pick their venue. Those enticements include local hotels discounting rates, free transportation for NFL officials, players, and hangers-on, and discounts on any manner of other things throughout the city. Last year, for instance, the list of freebies offered to the NFL even included free bowling alleys and golf.
For all this effort, cities expect to realize a windfall measuring in the millions as people come to stay in hotels, eat at local restaurants, spend money at airports, and generally pump up the local economy.
But does this windfall really occur? Some doubts are creeping into the conventional wisdom that a Super Bowl is an automatic economic benefit. This year, the city of Glendale, Arizona, has a far more glum set of expectations.
Jerry Weiers, the mayor of Glendale, told ESPN’s Mina Kimes that he doesn’t think his city will benefit from February’s game. In fact, Weiers said, “I totally believe we will lose money on this.”
The mayor claims that the city lost $1 million when it hosted the big game in 2008 and says that this time the city may lose as much as $3 million.
In fact, Weiers, who took office in 2013 and served as a state senator during the bidding process, refused to go out of his way to assure a winning proposal to host the Super Bowl. For instance, he refused to strong arm local hotels to discount rates. “I’m not gonna demand that our hotels discount any more than I’m gonna demand that the NFL discount Super Bowl tickets,” he said.
This may be a sign of the future if the results of a recent study are any indication. As Kimes notes, the benefits of a Super Bowl are actually “unclear.”
“A study funded by Arizona’s Super Bowl committee found that visitors spent $218 million around the 2008 game,” Kimes reported, “but some economists say the actual profits were much lower because football fans crowded out other tourists. Little of that money aids the city directly. Glendale said it spent $3.4 million in 2008, mostly on public safety, and earned only $1.2 million in taxes from direct spending at places like hotels and restaurants.”
Expect this ambivalent attitude about the Super Bowl to grow among host cities, perhaps to the point where the NFL will no longer be able to expect the long list of freebies and discounts to which it has become accustomed.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com