NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is The Super Bowl Worth It?

January 29, 2001

In the afterglow of the Super Bowl, it's worth considering a National Football League claim that the game is a Super Boon to the host city; in this case, $250 million to the Tampa region. But what's missing from the rosy picture is what economists call the substitution effect.

  • For example, Tampa hotels are packed to capacity for the big game, but they're usually busy this time of year anyway.
  • University of South Florida economist Philip Porter, an NCPA senior fellow, looked at tourism figures for the past warm weather Super Bowls and found no discernible uptick during the week of the game.
  • In fact, Super Bowl tourists are often forced to book week-long hotel stays, even if they're only there for the weekend -- meaning local merchants miss out on sales during much of the week.

Then, there are the Super Bowl liabilities.

  • There's the subsidy for the stadium that was the sight of Super Bowl XXXV -- $168 million in public money to replace Tampa Stadium in 1998.
  • Public numbers aren't available, but a city can expect to spend big on police overtime, additional public transit and sanitation -- about $2 million, if past experience is a reliable guide.
  • Then there are the Super Bowl commercials -- $4 million a minute over six hours, which translates to $150 million passed on to consumers.

Finally, add the corporate tax deductions for the ads and sponsorships associated with the game (about $150 million) and the cost of staging the victory parade (about $1 million), and you have the Super Bowl causing a net drain on the public purse of about $500 million.

Source: Neil deMause, "Five Hundred Million Arguments For The Elimination of the Super Bowl,", January 26, 2001.


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