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.)

NFL demands for Super Bowl hosts include free police, billboards, golf courses, first-born children

Thinking of hosting a Super Bowl in your backyard? The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has unearthed the list of demands that the NFL presents cities with (or at least presented Minneapolis with) in exchange for awarding the Super Bowl, and holy moley, it’s even crazier than anyone thought:

  • A free squad of city police officers to stop the sales of counterfeit tickets and unauthorized merchandise.
  • A waiver of government licensing fees for as many as 450 courtesy cars and buses.
  • A one-mile-wide “clean zone” around the Super Bowl stadium and a six-block one around the NFL’s hotel where nobody can do anything that isn’t approved by the league. (Sell stuff or protest, presumably.)
  • At least 20 free billboards.
  • Travel costs for 180 people to take a “familiarization trip” in advance of the Super Bowl.
  • Use of 35,000 free parking spaces.
  • Hotels where the teams will stay must televise the NFL Network to guests for one year before the game.
  • Free cellphone towers, if the cellphone service isn’t good enough.
  • Installation of ATMs at the stadium that accept the NFL’s preferred credit and debit cards, and removal of ATMs for conflicting services.
  • Free ad space in local newspapers and air time on local radio stations to promote the game.
  • Free police escorts for team owners.
  • Free use of two “top quality bowling venues,” for the Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic, and of three “top quality golf courses” for the NFL Foundation Golf Classic.
  • And, last but not least, full exemption for the league from city, county, and state taxes.

The NFL’s bid requirement document begins with the statement that “the day of the Super Bowl game [is] America’s unofficial holiday, a day when the attention of an entire nation is focused on the game in one region.” So don’t think of it as handing over your wallet to one of the world’s richest sports leagues, Minneapolis. Think of it as tithing.

 

New Orleans doesn’t win Super Bowl bid, Drew Brees says new stadium needed, Facebook freaks out

Minneapolis was awarded the 2018 Super Bowl on Tuesday, and I thought about posting, but you know, somebody is always awarded the Super Bowl, and Minneapolis will have a new stadium with a roof, so sure, why not? The only bit of news that seemed particularly relevant to this site was this note about the runner-up in the bidding, New Orleans:

New Orleans had been 10-for-10 when it bid on the Super Bowl. The city will be celebrating its 300th birthday in 2018. But, it plays in an old stadium, the Superdome. Feel free to wonder when the next pitch for public funds for a new stadium in New Orleans will come.

If you had your money on “two days from now, by Saints quarterback Drew Brees,” you’re a winner!

At a charity softball event Drew Brees inserted himself in a debate about whether the city of New Orleans “needs” a new sports stadium.  His comments came a few days after New Orleans lost a bid for the 2018 Super Bowl.  Minneapolis, with its emphasis on having a new football stadium, won the bid.

“Listen, the league wants to encourage new stadiums to be built.  This motivates and incentivizes cities, especially the small market teams, to pass legislation and approve bills that end up funding those types of stadiums,” said Brees.

WWL-TV then followed up this vague but incendiary comment by an NFL player who probably was just trying to answer a question that had been put to him with a bunch of quotes from Facebook comments, because modern journalism, people. (For the record, both Debbie Hall Perrone and Judy Clasen Sinnott think that New Orleans doesn’t need a new stadium.)

NBC Sports’ Mike Florio, meanwhile, who thinks that everybody needs a new stadium, says the selection of Minneapolis tells cities, “If you’ll be going up against a city with a new stadium built in part by taxpayer dollars, don’t bother.” Which could lead to future Super Bowl bids that “suddenly won’t be as good as they otherwise would be,” because cities without new stadiums won’t bother. Which is a nice bookend to Florio’s February column that holding cold-weather Super Bowls in cities with new stadiums will encourage more cities to build new stadiums, then bid. Just so long as somebody is being arm-twisted into something that can generate clicks, both the NFL and the sports media are happy, so it’s all good.

NBA-player-hating Minnesota rep takes on NFL’s Super Bowl tax breaks

A Minnesota state legislator has introduced legislation to block tax breaks to the NFL in exchange for landing a future Super Bowl, and — omigod, it’s this guy:

Anyway, Rep. Pat Garofalo (not to be confused with the not-crazy Pat Garofalo at ThinkProgress [UPDATE: now the not-crazy Pat Garodalo at USNews, my bad]) wants to make sure that the NFL has to pay taxes on things like hotel stays and restaurant bills if the Super Bowl comes to Minneapolis, which is eminently reasonable, except that the NFL insists on not paying taxes on those things as a condition of granting the game to your city. The bill is an okay media stunt to point out the NFL’s kickback demands, though, which at least means Rep. Garofalo’s bill-crafting staffers are somewhat more on the ball than his social media director.

Hey, it’s a dog-bites-man story that isn’t from Sochi!

Oh, Mike Florio, what have you written now?

With cities suddenly less relucntant to cough up the cash, the looming effort to build the next generation of stadiums could be aided by the promise of a Super Bowl.

Right, because that never happens currently.

I can only assume that Florio was stuck for a column idea on a boring Friday (the Super Bowl is too far in the past to recap, and somebody else already covered the Olympic cross-country skiing stray barking dog story), and dug into the back of his desk drawer for an old story idea he stopped working on in about 1993. To be fair, he seems to be implying that the success of the New Jersey Super Bowl (it didn’t snow, and people only got stuck changing trains for two hours!) will lead more cold-weather teams seeking stadiums to dangle a Super Bowl as a carrot, but the only cold-weather NFL teams without new or newly renovated stadiums are … hmm. Buffalo, I guess, but they’re about to get a pile of renovation money from the state. Does St. Louis count as “cold-weather”? Washington? And haven’t team owners been using this promise anyway, but using it as  additional leverage to try to pry loose a roof as well? How are poor NFL owners going to get their retractable roofs now, huh, Mike Florio? There, I just wrote next Friday’s column for you. No charge.

Crain’s admits Super Bowl impact overblown, says still “windfall” because it just is, okay?

I guess this is a victory of a sort: After a flurry of articles calling into question the NFL’s claims of an economic windfall for New York and New Jersey from hosting the Super Bowl, including mine and one from the Associated Press, Crain’s New York business columnist (isn’t that redundant?) Greg David began his column yesterday by writing, “The Super Bowl probably didn’t generate the $500 million in economic activity that the host committee claimed based on a study that wasn’t credible enough to be released.” But no worries, because, as he explained in perfect 5th-grade persuasive-essay format (topic sentence, details, concluding sentence), the game was still a “windfall” for its host city. Why?

  • The Super Bowl was free advertising for New York. Because who can put a price on putting New York on the tourist map?
  • The Super Bowl “highlighted the city’s ability to handle any big event in stride.” This is really the same as point #1, but is especially hilarious given that the main visitor memory of the game is likely to be this.
  • “The hotels did well.” David might have wanted to actually call some hotels; the AP did, and found that many were actually underbooked, with one midtown hotel manager declaring, “All of the anticipation and the hype about what this was going to bring for hotels in New York City has not materialized.”
  • “One of the biggest subliminal messages is that winter in New York is not a big problem for tourists.” Admittedly, the weather on Sunday was lovely. So long as you left straight for the airport at halftime and didn’t wait until the next day for your flight, when, not so lovely.
  • You didn’t need pricey game tickets to be a part of the action. There was a giant slide in Times Square, and only a 45-minute wait to ride on it! And, um, the press conference in Newark was free! Who can put a price on that?

Speaking of putting a price on things, David didn’t attempt to do any of that, because “windfall” is such a nice evocative word. His concluding sentence: “Big events are important to the city, and should be a part of any administration’s economic agenda.” Business journalism, ladies and gentlemen.

Super Bowl wins New Jersey acclaim as capital of transit hell

So one thing I neglected to talk about in last month’s Sports on Earth column about the economic impact of the Super Bowl was the idea that hosting the Big Game™ could put your city on the map as a tourist destination. And now I’m sorry I left that out, because who can put a price on the publicity value of this?

“Jersey sucks!” they had shouted in unison while stuck for 90 minutes in a Secaucus stairwell, some with only their Seattle Skittles to sustain them, dour demeanors in contrast with the bright sherbet colors of Bronco orange and Seahawk lime. “Train! Train! Train!”
And this:

And this:

After the winner’s celebration – Seattle defeated Denver, 43-8 – an announcement was made over the public address system that anyone planning to take the train “should remain in the stadium due to the congestion on the platforms.”

To put a capper on it, angry fans blamed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the transit nightmare, because sure, why not?

In related news, Salon’s Alex Pareene has written an article that I’ve always wanted to write, namely that since the Super Bowl doesn’t actually bring any benefits to host cities (aside from being able to point and laugh at other people being trapped at Secaucus Junction instead of you), and the NFL really only cares about being able to force fans to buy their official products, the league should just “build a giant arena somewhere in the desert outside Vegas, or maybe southern California somewhere, and just make it the permanent home of the Super Bowl.” Pareene continues:

The league can build its little Super Bowl village with its NFL Experience stuff, and keep it up all year, a whole little town dedicated to the majesty of football. All of this crap currently clogging Broadwaycould have a permanent, lucrative home! It would be a football theme park for most of the year, and then for one week it would be a mecca of stupid, bloated NFL excess. The arena would be state-of-the-art, indoors and climate-controlled, with a zillion luxury boxes and maybe a couple of normal seats for “regular” “fans.” Every single aspect of the entire experience could be controlled as minutely as Disney’s imagineers control Disneyland. Everyone wins, besides the people attending the game and various players with catastrophic head trauma.

It’s actually an excellent idea, except for the part where it would prevent individual NFL teams from trying to hold up their home towns for new stadium money by holding out the carrot of hosting a Super Bowl someday. Other than that, though, it could totally work, and in fact shouldn’t be limited to—

This is also how to fix the Olympics.

Yup.

No tax, please, we’re the Super Bowl

Getting to host a Super Bowl isn’t all about whether you’ve built a new enough stadium or are in a place where it’s sunny in February. No, the key to a successful Super Bowl bid is also about bribes, or as they’re called in NFL lingo, “financial demands.” The Santa Clara city council voted unanimously last night to accede to the NFL’s requirements by rebating a whole slew of fees and taxes, which were nicely summarized by newballpark.org:

  • 10% NFL Ticket Surcharge – At a conservative set price of $500 per SB L ticket, the $50 surcharge would yield $3.75 million with an expanded capacity of 75,000.
  • $0.35 Ticket fee – Meant to fund some senior and youth programs. A cap of $250,000 per year is imposed on this revenue source. If the 49ers play at least one home game, it’s likely that the 49ers would hit the cap, rendering additional collection of this fee moot.
  • Hotel tax – A Mello Roos district was created to provide some stadium funding, backed by a hike in the transit occupancy tax from 9.5% to 11.5% in the stadium’s immediate area. The NFL asked for its share (350 rooms for an unspecified number of days) to be waived. Assuming that the NFL needs 350 rooms for the full two weeks, the City would forego some $70,000+ in hotel taxes. The City notes that it expects to make up this loss via taxes collected on additional room bookings.
  • Off Site Parking fee – The City has imposed a $4.54 fee per space for event parking. That too will be waived. This appears to be for all Super Bowl activities, not just the game itself. The City notes that the fee is meant to offset the cost of traffic management.

Total cost of all this to Santa Clara taxpayers: Nobody bothered to ask! As newballpark.org continues, “Strangely, no estimates of this impact were disclosed, even as the City touts $300 million in additional economic activity for the region.” (Much of which would be taking place in the San Francisco part of the region, since S.F. would be the official “host city” for Super Bowl week events, even as Santa Clara would be the actual city hosting the game.)

We’ve been through before with Indianapolis, of course, so none of it should be any surprise. But it’s a reminder of how cities can host a major event like the Super Bowl and still come out of it with an operating loss. Good thing the Super Bowl brings in all sorts of ancillary economic benefits — oh wait.

Will the Super Bowl blackout spark calls for more New Orleans stadium subsidies? No, seriously

I happened to be watching the Super Bowl with FoS correspondent David Dyte, so naturally when the lights went out, I made the same joke I haul out every time anything goes wrong at a sporting event, whether falling concrete or the hot dog stand running out of mustard: “Looks like they need a new stadium.”

It turns out someone else had the same idea, only they weren’t joking:

The most recent trend for Super Bowl cities and facilities is to head to newer facilities.  Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, New Meadowlands Stadium in NY/NJ, Reliant Stadium in Houston, and U of Phoenix being excellent recent examples.

New Orleans has cashed in on their historical calling card as a festive host city.

But in the aftermath of Sunday night’s second half blackout, New Orleans may need a new football stadium before they play host to their 11th Super Bowl.

That’s from Forbes.com “contributor” (which I believe means unpaid volunteer blogger) Patrick Rishe, who if nothing else deserves props for one of the quickest SEO grabs of last night, getting his demand for a new New Orleans stadium out to the world before the third quarter was even over. (Though I’m still waiting for the “What time did the Super Bowl blackout start?” headlines.) Rishe is an economics professor and runs some kind of sports consulting firm, so he’s probably not the most reliable source for stadium demand rumors; even if other actual news outlets are speculating on what the blackout will mean for New Orleans’ 2018 Super Bowl bid, nobody’s talking about a brand new stadium just yet, not when Louisiana just spent $336 million on renovating the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.

And yet, Miami is talking about it (or another round of taxpayer-subsidized renovations at least), for a stadium that’s 12 years younger than the Superdome. Given that all evidence is that Super Bowls mean pretty nothing for local economies, that New Orleans has way more pressing needs than a new stadium, that the city isn’t exactly hurting for ways to attract tourists in February, that the NFL is going to want to keep going back to New Orleans regardless because rich people like to party, and finally — as recent events have shown — that getting a chance on the world stage can as easily result in global embarrassment as global glory, this would be pretty much absolutely crazy. But then, we’re in the crazy business here.

Super Bowl spawns stadium stories

The weekend of the Super Bowl — I understand that some team won by a guy accidentally falling on his butt for a touchdown, which is truly the greatest sports moment ever — brought with it a plethora of stadium stories at least tenuously connected to the big game. My personal favorite is the one about how nice the weather would be at the Super Bowl in New Jersey if only it were now instead of two years from now, but other highlights include:

On balance, it was a pretty good run of pieces — at least it’s better than regurgitating unsubstantiated claims about how much big sporting events bring to the local economy — even if we likely only got it because of Super Bowl-related search-engine-grubbing. Not that I’d know anything about that.