Arizona Claims Massive Super Bowl Economic Impact

Are the numbers really this big for hosting the big game?

As San Diego looks at building a new football stadium, one of the biggest arguments for building a big, shiny new facility is the now notorious … “Economic Impact.”

That’s the amount of money event organizers say is generated for a region by an event. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest single annual events on the planet, and the cities who host the game like to cite it as a windfall for the region.

The economic impact report for Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona is out. According to a study completed by the Seidman Research Institute, W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, Super Bowl XLIX, the 2015 Pro Bowl and related events produced a gross economic impact of $719.4 million in the region.

Arizona Governor Doug Duce revealed the numbers Wednesday at a conference on Tourism in Scottsdale. He claims this is the largest economic impact of any special event ever held in the state of Arizona, as well as the highest for any Super Bowl for which publicly released figures are available.

“This is tremendous news for our economy and a strong testament to the exceptional work of everyone involved,” said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. “The eyes of the world were on Arizona, and we delivered in a big way. I look forward to our state hosting many more successful championship games and major events in the future.”

WOW! If that’s the case why doesn’t EVERYBODY try to host the game every year? Heck, just two of those games would pay off a new stadium in San Diego, no problem. Well, small problem; it’s not exactly that easy.

The study was commissioned by the Arizona Commerce Authority in partnership with the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee. It focused on the nine-day period from January 24th through February 1, 2015 coinciding with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl which were played at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The gross economic impact (that $719.4 million number) is defined as the direct amount of spending by visitors and organizations arriving from outside the state to participate in or create events directly related to the Super Bowl, as well as the indirect and induced impacts of those expenditures. Resident and local business spending was not included.

Trained individuals from the W. P. Carey School of Business did on-site surveys with visitors, asking why they were in Arizona and how much money they were spending. That data was fed in to a mathematical model developed by the University of Minnesota and, whammy, Arizona is $719.4 million richer.

Expect it’s not. Several factors are not included in the economic impact report. Things like how much money regular visitors to the region would have spent (and Arizona has plenty of them in late January anyway); how much local residents would have been spending in the same area during that time had Downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale not been over-run by tourists; and how much the area is spending to hold the event. Overtime for police and traffic workers is not cheap. In fact, the city of Santa Clara is expecting to spend upwards of $50 million to host Super Bowl 50.

So the actual cash infusion to an economy is likely nowhere near what the good folks in Arizona are claiming it is. Now, all this is in in no way saying hosting a Super Bowl is a bad idea for a community. There is a definite economic benefit to putting on a major event like that, and San Diego would certainly be in line to host several Super Bowls in coming years.

But is it going to bring in close to three-quarters of a billion dollars? Well, since this was the game where the Patriots beat the Seahawks, I suppose we should say that number needs to be deflated.

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