The NFL has proven that it is not the easiest organization to get along with over the years but a particularly interesting dynamic has arisen over the past couple of seasons. The Super Bowl is one of the league’s busiest times of year. Coordinating between the stadium, the host city, the teams and others can get overwhelming as the preparations are being made. However, through all of this, the league has little sympathy for the host city. The NFL expects full cooperation with very little granted to the city in return. Thankfully, some of the mayors involved have started speaking out.
This year’s host was the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. This was actually the second Super Bowl hosted by this stadium, the other coming back in 2008. In both situations, the NFL has tried playing hard ball with the politicians. In 2008, then Glendale mayor Elaine Scruggs reported that she had been offered Super Bowl tickets from the league. The issue was that they were at face value for $700 per ticket. Scruggs admitted she could not afford it and was planning to miss the game until a local Super Bowl planning committee came up with two free tickets for her. This year saw current Glendale mayor James Weiers forgotten completely. The league did not even offer Weisers a chance to buy a ticket to the game. He instead attend with Mitchell Modell, owner of the sport goods chain Modell’s. It seems a little cruel to put the mayors of the host city through that sort of ordeal. After all of the organization in the scheduling of the game, the league gives the mayor no compensation. That does not seem right to me.
Glendale is not the only one with these concerns either. The mayor of East Rutherford, New Jersey, James Casella had his own criticism for the league. East Rutherford is the home of MetLife Stadium and the site of last year’s Super Bowl. In addition to never being offered a ticket, Casella was infuriated by the NFL’s advertising of the game. I interviewed the East Rutherford mayor last year around the time of the game. He felt that the league was overlooking his city. He said, “Even Terry Bradshaw [Fox broadcaster] has called it the New York Super Bowl. The NFL has acted that our gift was hosting the Super Bowl and that was enough. It appears the NFL doesn’t want anyone else to make money from their game.” Casella had every right to be angry. While it is difficult to calculate, it is likely that New York got the bigger cut of the revenue generated by the Super Bowl.
While the NFL seems to be largely conceited, the cities that host the game do tend to pull in a lot of money from tourists. Rockport Analytics published research conducted on the 2012 game held in Indianapolis. The group found that Indy received $264 million from visitors and game attendees. The city of New Orleans, which hosted the 2013 edition of the Super Bowl, reported that the big game had brought in a similar amount of money from direct spending, $262.8 million. However, I have also seen conflicting numbers that are much closer to $200 million. This underlines the major problem of how difficult it is to track how much of an economic impact these games bring to a specific city. On average though, the host city is estimated to generate roughly $200 million in direct spending, according to Pricewaterhousecoopers LLP.
The debate is still open for how beneficial it is for a city to host the big game though. The reality is that the game does bring in a lot of extra income but it also leads to plenty of other costs and offsetting detractors that make it a neutral effect on the economy. I have read in just about every article about the Super Bowl’s economic impact that economists view the projections as overblown and the net gain is for the most part minimal. To that end, I haven’t exact seen huge increasing trends in economies that had the Super Bowl, nor have I seen any major drop offs. I think it is fair to reason that the overall impact of the big game is negligible at best.
If we are assuming that, the economic impact is relatively neutral then the NFL really has to start offering these mayors free Super Bowl tickets. That seems to be the only really compensation these politicians could be in line for after all of the work they put in organizing the hosting efforts. If this continues to be a trend though where the league not only provides minimal returns on the city’s investment and less than generous accommodations, we could start to see the pool of Super Bowl host cities begin to shrink. Until then though, I doubt the NFL will change it’s ways.