NFL commissioner waves around well-worn Super Bowl promise to boost Chargers petition drive

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did what commissioners do on Saturday, promising San Diego a Super Bowl if it approves a new stadium for the Chargers. Well, not promising exactly:

“I’m confident that if they can get a stadium built here, the owners will want to support it with a Super Bowl,” Goodell said. “I think that’s what this community deserves, and we’re all going to work to try and find a solution.”

Yeah, you can totally take that promise to the bank. Not that San Diego wouldn’t get a Super Bowl with a new stadium — they hold them every year, after all, and it wouldn’t be too hard to work San Diego into the rotation at least once — but Goodell’s appearance was far less “announcement” than “media event,” designed to help kick off the Chargers’ petition campaign for $1.15 billion in city spending on a new stadium and convention center annex. A Super Bowl also wouldn’t much help in paying that off, as innumerable economists have found, but at least it might be a pleasant distraction, maybe?

Super Bowl tourists drove away usual visitors to South Bay, just as economists predicted

It’s been a month since Santa Clara welcomed the Super Bowl to the San Francisco 49ersslippery turf, so how did the South Bay make out in terms of that $800 million in economic impact that the NFL projected? Take it away, Team San Jose, the tourism bureau with the instantly dated name:

Even with room rates falling below astronomical predictions, they were still high enough above normal to make the three-day Super Bowl weekend “the best weekend of hotel performance in San Jose history,” said Ben Roschke, Team San Jose’s director of business development.

Sounds great! And what are the actual numbers?

Instead of selling out every single room during Super Bowl week, as the city projected, San Jose hotels actually welcomed fewer guests than the same week last year, preliminary figures released Monday show.

With three out of every 10 rooms vacant, the city won’t reap the nearly $1.9 million in additional hotel taxes it forecast Super Bowl week would deliver. Instead, a report submitted by Smith Travel Research shows the city will likely receive about $600,000 in extra hotel taxes, said Victor Matheson, an economist at College of the Holy Cross, who studies the economics of Super Bowls.

That’s not enough to offset the $1.25 million in costs mostly for police services during Super Bowl week.

How could hotel occupancy rates be both above normal and below normal? The trick is in what timespan you look at: For Super Bowl weekend, even sky-high hotel rates weren’t enough to keep people away, which makes sense given that if you’re already dropping obscene amounts of money on Super Bowl tickets, getting gouged on a hotel stay isn’t that big a deal. However, for the entire week before the game, occupancy rates were down 9% from the same week last year, presumably because business travelers steered clear of the hiked room fees (by 64%, according to the Smith Travel report), while football fans didn’t show up until closer to game time.

This is probably fine for the hotels, since they ended up making more money from the increased room rates, even if they hosted fewer people overall. In terms of overall local economic impact, though, it’s terrible, because it means for the first half of Super Bowl week, there were far fewer hotel visitors knocking around San Jose and spending their luscious out-of-town dollars elsewhere in town, something that gamegoers couldn’t make up for during their relatively short stays. (Sales tax receipt figures for Super Bowl week haven’t been released yet, but anecdotal reports from San Jose business owners were that Super Bowl week was “kind of a letdown” and “wasn’t too much different from a normal week.”)

If all that sounds familiar, it should, because economists like Phil Porter have been noting this trend for more than 15 years already. Matheson ended up telling the San Jose Mercury News that the Bay Area as a whole could break even on its Super Bowl hosting costs, which is nice, but isn’t exactly an $800 million windfall.

 

Hot dog vendors sue Super Bowl concessionaire for trapping them on bus line with no pay

A group of Super Bowl 50 workers have sued Levi’s Stadium concessionaire Centerplate for labor law violations, charging that they were illegally denied required pay and rest breaks during the game. If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you saw lead plaintiff Gabriel Thompson’s writeup of his Super Bowl hot-dog-vending experience in Slate (with the help of a grant from the Nation Investigative Fund — hi, Esther!):

I swipe my card at 8:36 a.m. I am now on the clock, more than 90 minutes after I arrived to catch the shuttle. This unpaid time is likely illegal: In 2000, the California Supreme Court ruled that employers who require workers to travel in company vehicles must be paid from the time they were told to arrive at the departure point…

[After the game,] thousands of workers are shuffling slowly along a path that follows alongside a tennis court, passes over a small bridge and finally spills out onto a road, where two buses idle. It takes me seven minutes to make my way to the end of the line; by that time it has stopped completely. We all wait for another 20 minutes, without moving. More workers join, and the line becomes tighter and hotter. Many people have been on their feet since 4 a.m., and we are packed so closely that sitting down is impossible. One woman starts sobbing.

Another hour passes. We’ve moved about two hundred feet. “There’s gonna be a riot here!” someone yells. It certainly feels possible. A chant breaks out: “We want to go home! We want to go home!” The crowd gets even tighter and pushier. At one point, a group next to me tries to shove its way through, but there’s nowhere to go, and they only succeed in knocking a few people to the ground. A second woman breaks down into tears and is escorted out. It’s now 11 p.m. The urge to sit has become overwhelming. Two groups of men have somehow decided they ought to fight each other, but it’s too crowded even to do that. I end up next to a temp from Culinary Staffing America, who, like me, has already clocked out and so likely won’t be paid for this time. Others nearby, direct employees of Levi’s Stadium, are incredulous when we tell them that. They’ve been instructed to clock out after they reach Avaya Stadium.

The two takeaways here: The bulk of the jobs created by the presence of a Super Bowl (such that it really creates any at all) are exceptionally crappy ones; and crappy jobs in the 21st century U.S. are exceptionally crappy indeed. One of Thompson’s co-workers in Santa Clara was a woman who earned $11 an hour through a temp agency and “was living in a storage unit in a San Jose trailer park.” America!

The Super Bowl and the NFL are both still awful for living things

I did not see the Super Bowl — I actually spent the day rewatching “League of Denial” with my son, after which he decided he’d rather play FIFA 16 on the PS4 than watch American football — so don’t have any actual Super Bowl-related content to use as clickbait, though I know that’s how the game is played. So instead, I’ll direct you to read this article about how the Super Bowl is bad for cities, or this video from the Wall Street Journal, or this two-year-old article by me that still holds true. Or maybe you’d prefer an article on how stadiums get to host Super Bowls just as rewards for teams building them even if they suck, or a list of all the specific ways that the host stadium for this Super Bowl sucks, helpfully titled “Levi’s Stadium is garbage”?

Hope you enjoyed the game! It would be sad if all those players‘ brain cells, not to mention those public tax kickbacks, had died for nothing.

Idiotic lease clause could force Houston to spend $50m on upgrading Texans stadium for Super Bowl

To the list of crazy things that the NFL demands in order to allow cities the honor of hosting the Super Bowl (free billboards, free police officers, free bowling alleys), add spending $50 million to make the luxury suites more luxurious at your 13-year-old stadium. That’s what Houston was told for its plans to host the 2017 Super Bowl:

Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events, said Monday that upgrading the stadium’s WiFi is something the bid committee has agreed to do. In terms of sprucing up the seating, he said he noted on a recent visit that NRG “is in a very good place at this stage in its stadium life, but there are opportunities to upgrade that are common across Super Bowl stadiums as they prepare and continue to make sure they are state-of-the-art.”

So far, no Houston government officials have stepped up to offer $50 million to the cause — in fact, Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack swore earlier this week that “I’m not about to vote to spend a single dollar of county money updating these luxury suites” — and it doesn’t appear that the Super Bowl bid committee actually committed to it as a condition of hosting the big game. So the NFL seemingly doesn’t have a leg to stand on, unless there’s something in the Texans‘ stadium lease:

A clause in that lease agreement says the county must maintain the facility in “first class” condition and “a manner comparable to other stadiums.”

Noooooooooooo! Don’t you people ever learn?

Minnesota legislators want to give more tax breaks to Super Bowl, because NFL asked nicely

Minneapolis was awarded the 2018 Super Bowl last May, after agreeing to a completely crazy list of NFL demands that includes everything from league exemption from local taxes to putting up more cellphone towers if the NFL isn’t happy with reception. But that apparently isn’t enough:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Tuesday that he and House Speaker Kurt Daudt will push for $2.8 million in additional tax relief sought by Super Bowl organizers for the 2018 game in Minneapolis…

Minnesota already exempts sales tax on tickets to the game itself, a law dating from the 1992 Super Bowl in Minneapolis. That’s worth about $9.5 million in forgone revenue, state officials have said.

The new request would extend that exemption to cover events related to the game at the new Vikings stadium, such as an interactive zone for fans or certain tailgating events.

Apparently the NFL thought it was getting this tax break, but nobody in state government ever signed off on it, and Gov. Mark Dayton is now invoking the “no backsies” rule to tell the league that if they wanted it that bad, they should have made it part of the agreement. Daudt, though, has no problem with handing over an additional $2.8 million after the fact:

“I wish that they didn’t ask for all of these sorts of tax breaks, but it is an economic benefit to the community. It’s kind of a ‘but for’ — it doesn’t happen if we don’t have the Super Bowl here,” Daudt said.

We could argue that “economic benefit” notion all day, but more to the point: Dude, you already got the Super Bowl! The NFL is capable of a lot of things, but even it wouldn’t threaten to change the location of a Super Bowl that’s already been announced over a matter of a couple million dollars. At worst, the league might grumble about not approving future Minneapolis Super Bowl bids (though by the time Minneapolis comes around again on the Super Bowl rotation, none of these people are likely to still be in office), or leave Minneapolis a scathing Yelp review or something.

Anyway, it sounds like legislative leaders want to try to push this through, but Dayton has no intention of signing it, so maybe it’s just a way for the top legislators to tell the NFL, “Hey, we tried. Can we still sit in your luxury box?” And hey, look, at least Bakk and Daudt draw the line somewhere:

State leaders made it clear their largesse wouldn’t extend to waiving player income taxes for the time they’re in Minnesota. Those costs will be covered by private fund-raising, officials with the host committee said.

I really, really want to see the fundraising letter for that one. For 70 cents a day, you can free an NFL player from the tyranny of state income taxes! Though come to think of it, that might be a decent selling point with some funders.

Credit card company issues lame-ass report on Super Bowl spending, gets name in headlines (but not this one)

First Data, which processes credit and debit card payments, has put out a press release about spending at last Sunday’s Super Bowl in Glendale, and Darren Rovell is ON IT:

Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, resulted in no significant consumer spending growth to the greater Phoenix area, according to an analysis of consumer spending patterns from payments technology company First Data, which says it annually handles 60 billion credit and debit card transactions.

The company’s data shows spending growth from the two weeks surrounding last Sunday’s game was only 3.1 percent better than average compared to the same time period a year before when the spending in the area grew 6.4 percent.

This is along the lines of what actual economic studies have found, so it’s tempting to take this as confirmation that the Super Bowl doesn’t do squat for local spending, because it mostly just displaces visitors who steer clear of town because they don’t want the hassle of dealing with the Super Bowl. First Data, though, didn’t exactly do an exhaustive study: It only looked at credit card and debit card charges, obviously, and just compared spending in the Phoenix area to the same time period the year before without controlling for any other factors. In other words, this could be an actual sign of something, or it could just be a random fluctuation that means zippo.

Also, Rovell doesn’t bother to calculate what a 3.1% hike in spending (compared to “average” — average over the whole year, average for February, what?) means in actual dollars, though presumably he has the First Data report (he didn’t link to it) and a calculator. But, you know, ESPN isn’t paying him to think, just to reprint press releases, and there’s another one on the pile, so no time to lose!

No, there’s still no Super Bowl windfall for cities, no matter what you read in the paper

If you haven’t gotten enough of me griping about media coverage of sports economic reports here — or just want to read about it all in one place — hie thee to FAIR.org’s newly expanded website, where I’ve written all about how the media all too often parrot claims of economic windfalls from sports without even checking if they have any basis in fact.

There are occasional exceptions, obviously (I cite several), but as one journalist who has done time fact-checking his peers says:

“For every one good article you see, there are ten others that don’t bother to do it, and the good ones just get lost,” says Noah Pransky of WTSP-TV in Tampa Bay, who also reports on sports economics at his own website, Shadow of the Stadium. “An industry joke is that reporters have always been mathematically challenged, but the problem has been magnified in recent years by the 24-hour news cycle and staff depletion at traditional media outlets.”

Remember, kids: Just because you read it in the newspaper doesn’t mean it’s true! Blogs, though, are 100% accurate. I read a study that said so.

Super Bowls are a money suck, says mayor of city about to host Super Bowl

The Super Bowl will be held in Glendale, Arizona this year, which means it’s time for local officials to proclaim how much their city will benefit from having a bunch of NFL fans descend upon them for a week:

Jerry Weiers, the mayor of Glendale, Arizona, recently told me he doesn’t expect a windfall when his city hosts the big game in February. In fact, he says, “I totally believe we will lose money on this.”

Well, that’s different. Of course, Weiers is a different sort of mayor on the subject of sports spending: He fought to overturn the sweetheart deal that Glendale gave the Arizona Coyotes to stay in town, and Glendale won this Super Bowl before he won election, so he doesn’t have any stake in talking up the benefits.

It’s also not the first time Weiers has griped about the cost of hosting the Super Bowl. Last summer he said that the city had lost money hosting the 2008 Super Bowl as well, a claim that Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwell called “a bunch of malarkey.” ESPN The Magazine, though, reports that Weiers can back up that charge with numbers:

A study funded by Arizona’s Super Bowl committee found that visitors spent $218 million around the 2008 game, 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. (Tickets are not taxed.) One former councilwoman, Joyce Clark, who voted against hosting the 2015 game after witnessing the city’s losses seven years ago, scoffs at the idea that the publicity was worth it. “There has not been any corporation that moved to Glendale because the CEO came to the Super Bowl,” she says.

Prior independent estimates have shown that cities might be able to turn a profit of a few million dollars on a Super Bowl, even after paying for all the free police and billboards and cellphone towers and ATMs — though that’s probably more the case in a bigger city where a greater share of the money being spent stays local. (If Super Bowl attendees spend money in Phoenix, that doesn’t help Glendale one whit.) Anyway, if the public debate around this becomes a matter of whether the Super Bowl doesn’t mean squat for cities or might leave a handful of change scattered on the coffee table, that’s still a welcome step forward from where it’s been.

Miami to start paying Dolphins to host Super Bowls, light bulb goes off over every other NFL owner’s head

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’s rewards plan for major sporting events is now reality, as the Miami-Dade County Commission last night voted 7-4 to approve a bill giving the Dolphins up to $5 million a year based on how many Super Bowls, college football championship games, and other special events are held at a remodeled Sun Life Stadium. Add in $3 million a year in state sales-tax kickbacks, and — assuming he hosts a whole lot of international soccer friendlies and the like — Ross could end up getting about $100 million in public subsidies toward a planned $350 million renovation, with another $200 million coming from the NFL’s G-4 fund.

This is pretty close to the amount that Ross was asking for in previous renovation funding plans, and also pretty close to what other cities are giving their football teams in order to extend their commitment to remain in town — and Ross has committed to keep the Dolphins in Miami for 30 years instead of the measly six that Charlotte got out of the Carolina Panthers, so I guess you can file this under “it could be worse.”

The bigger concern isn’t with the up to $8 million a year in tax money that Floridians will have to do without, but with the precedent that this could set for other teams. As Heather McCoy of KUCI asked yesterday during our weekly interview segment (no archive up yet, but check here for one eventually) [UPDATE: archive is up now!], isn’t this likely to give other team owners ideas about a new premise for extracting payments from their hometowns? My answer: Hell yeah. When you’re talking about Stephen Ross getting checks for every major sporting event he hosts in place of getting property-tax breaks, that’s one thing; when the owner of a team like the Indiana Pacers who already gets a free arena, free rent, no property taxes and yearly operating subsidies realizes that this is another goodie he can attempt to add to his bag, we could have some problems here.

(Requisite reminder for those just tuning in: Hosting a Super Bowl is not actually a benefit to the local treasury, and not much of one to the local economy, thanks to all the crazy NFL demands cities have to put up with in order to be considered for hosting the game. And it looks like the new College Football Playoff Championship is headed the same direction.)