Minnesota made a squillion dollars from Super Bowl LII, say people paid to say such things

If you were running a business, how would you figure out how much money you made at the end of the year? You could do an estimate of how many customers entered your store each day, estimate how much you think they spent on average, subtract a theoretical number for your costs per item sold, and call that your best guess. Or you could, you know, actually look at how much cash you have at the end of each day, and count.

The latter method is how economists prefer to calculate the impact of sporting events: Add up the tax revenues during the big game or games, and compare it to tax revenues during a normal month. If you’re an economic impact consultant who’s paid more to come up with big numbers than accurate numbers, though, it’s often better to use the former method, since there’s a lot more wiggle room for truthiness.

Which brings us to yesterday’s headlines that hosting Super Bowl LII brought in $370 million in new economic activity for the state of Minnesota:

That was the net new spending from the 10-day event Jan. 26-Feb. 4, according to an economic impact report released Tuesday by Gov. Mark Dayton.

The results, which are in dispute, came in $50 million over pre-event projections by Rockport Analytics made years in advance. Rockport, based in Pennsylvania, also wrote the final report.

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you’ve probably already spotted the first problem, which is that this is economic activity, not economic benefits. So part of that money includes $179 million in spending by the NFL’s broadcast partners, much of which likely went directly into the pockets of the NFL, never actually touching the Minnesota economy. As far as actual tax revenue goes, the report estimated $32 million in new receipts.

That number, though, was goosed by including increased property tax receipts, I guess on the grounds that hotels are worth more when they can sell Super Bowl stays once every couple of decades?

And then we have our old friend the substitution effect, where one has to account for any money that would have been spent locally anyway, either because it was spent by locals who’d be in town regardless, or because Super Bowl tourists displaced other tourists (and locals) who steered clear of town because they didn’t want the hassle of dealing with football fans. The study trimmed about 18% from its projected economic activity for substitution, a number that it arrived at thusly:

“The average visitor spent $608 per person per day,” said Ken McGill with Rockport Analytics, a consulting company that looks at the economics of big events and wrote the report on the 2018 Super Bowl. “We interviewed, and we literally intercepted visitors … and asked them where they were from, what they were spending in certain categories and whether they’d come back.”

This, needless to say, is not rigorous science, since people are terrible reporters of their own spending activities. And, on top of that, Rockport wasn’t able to intercept anyone who would have been in town if not for the Super Bowl, since they were off doing something else.

Fortunately, Minneapolis’s chief financial officer is calculating the actual changes to city tax revenues during the Super Bowl, and will present those numbers to the city council in June. While we wait, maybe we can pass the time by seeing how things went the last time tax officials fact-checked an economic consultants’ claims:

Minneapolis All-Star Game impact overstated by 27-72%, says state revenue department

Ah, well. We’ll always have the excited headlines.

Friday roundup: Why Pistons fans can’t bear to watch, Broncos land grab move, Donald Trump could win Morocco the World Cup, and more!

All evidence to the contrary, spring (and the spring end-of-legislative-session season) must be getting nearer, because the stack of weekly roundup news items in my Instapaper is getting longer and longer each week. Better get down to it:

Friday roundup: Warriors debt fight, giant American butts, and the blackout curtains that will eat Minneapolis

It’s laugh to keep from crying week! (Just kidding: It’s always laugh to keep from crying week.)

  • The 46-year-old Richmond Coliseum is “clearly past its prime” and “smaller and gloomier than many competing venues,” and the city should use “original thinking and strong leadership from the private and public sectors” such as tax-increment financing to help pay for a new arena, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Not included in the editorial: any indication of how much a new arena would cost or whether the benefit to the city would be worth it, because why think about such things when there’s new-car smell to be had?
  • Oakland and the Golden State Warriors owners are still fighting over who’ll pay for $40 million in remaining Oracle Arena debt once the Warriors move to San Francisco in 2019. It sure sounds like the team’s Oakland lease requires them to pay off remaining debt if they leave before 2027, but the city really would have had a much stronger case if it had refused to grant the team a lease extension without an agreement on debt payments, and made Steph Curry go play in the street for a couple of years.
  • The Texas Rangers‘ new stadium will feature seats that are 1 to 2 inches wider than in their old one, which is good for fans with wide butts (I stand accused, although not of being a Rangers fan), but less good for fans with butts of any size who will have to make do with seats farther down the outfield lines to make way for the butts of more well-off fans. Everything’s a tradeoff.
  • The Detroit Grand Prix owners, seeking to justify turning a public park into a private raceway for three months of preparation each summer, claim the annual event is worth $58 million to the local economy, and I told the Detroit Metro Times why that’s probably bullshit.
  • Here are some pictures of Los Angeles F.C.‘s new stadium in the final stages of construction that look disturbingly like pictures of stadiums in the first stages of demolition. At least season-ticket sales are going well, and those are way harder to fake than individual game ticket sales!
  • Derek Jeter may have gotten rid of anything not nailed down from the 2017 Miami Marlins, but he still can’t move Red Grooms’ horrific home run sculpture, because the public helped pay for it so now it’s public art. (Too bad Marlins fans couldn’t have tried the same argument about Giancarlo Stanton.)
  • The NCAA has awarded the 2019 men’s Final Four to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and now is demanding a giant blackout curtain to cover up the building’s windows for the event. Cost, according to Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Mike Vekich: “It will be expensive — obviously.” Crazy idea: Tell the NCAA, “You already awarded us the Final Four, if you want a giant venetian blind, pay for it yourself or go play in the street with Steph Curry.”
  • The cost of a pedestrian bridge to get fans to a new stadium in Atlanta — no, not that bridge to that stadium, a different bridge to the Falcons stadium — has nearly doubled from $12.8 million to $25.1 million, thanks in part to rush charges to get ready for next year’s Super Bowl. You know where next year’s Super Bowl would look great if the NFL won’t pay rush charges for a bridge? You guessed it!

Friday roundup: Tons of news, but you’ll forget it all once you see that Houston is spending public money on a pro rugby stadium

And in other news that doesn’t involve proposed Tampa Bay Rays stadium sites:

  • United Airlines is spending $69 million on naming rights to the Los Angeles Coliseum in advance of the 2028 Olympics, but IOC rules prohibit corporate names during the Olympics, oops. Hope you enjoy the most expensive college-football naming rights deal in history, United!
  • Hotel revenue fell 16% in San Diego last year after the Chargers left town, but went up 0.2% in St. Louis after the Rams left. I’m not honestly sure what if anything this means — you’d really have to look at hotel revenue on football weekends to do this right, and it doesn’t look like this study did — but feel free to speculate wildly.
  • Did I mention the Yahoo Finance article yet that compares the Amazon HQ2 chase to the competition to host the Super Bowl, and cites me saying that while Amazon will bring more jobs, “that said, there’s almost no way it’s worth the kind of money that cities are talking about”? Well, now I have, enjoy!
  • AL.com has recalculated the public costs of a proposed University of Alabama-Birmingham football stadium and come up with a total of $18.2 million a year — $10.7 million from a bunch of county taxes, $3.5 million from a new car rental tax surcharge, $1 million from other county funds, and $3 million from city funds — not the $15.7 million I had previously reported. UAB and a naming rights sponsor and other private contributors, meanwhile, would only put in $4 million a year, and only for the first ten years. Out of his goddamn mind, I tell you.
  • Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report filed a Freedom of Information Law request to see the competing bids for the Belmont Park site that eventually got awarded to the New York Islanders, and was shot down on the grounds that it would “impair present or imminent contract awards.” Wait, wasn’t the contract already awarded? Will it be okay to ask again once it’s too late to do anything about it?
  • The WNBA’s Chicago Sky are moving to the new DePaul basketball arena that the city of Chicago helped pay for, which I guess is marginally good for Chicago in that it gets to steal a tiny sliver of economic activity from Rosemont, screw those guys, right? (Actually, Rosemont is apparently a gated community, so maybe screw those guys.)
  • A New Orleans Pelicans game was delayed because the arena roof leaked. No one is demanding that a new arena be built just yet that I’ve heard, but given that the current one is 19 whole years old, it’s gotta to be a matter of time, even if this one does have a fire fountain.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are threatening to sue the city-county sports authority over who’ll pay how much for $10 million in improvements to their stadium, because apparently the people who write these stadium leases are idiots.
  • If you enjoy this site but were thinking, “Wouldn’t this be better as a YouTube video with lots of animated charts?”, Vox has got you covered.
  • The Houston city council has approved spending $3.2 million in tax dollars on a pro rugby stadium for the Houston SaberCats, who are a pro rugby team that is going to play in a pro rugby league, which councilmember Jack Christie calls “a beautiful example of public-private partnerships that we ought to look at in the future, because as far as I have heard, there’s not been one city tax dollar used for this development.” I’m done. Have a good weekend.

Study shows Super Bowl only sells 22% as many hotel rooms as NFL claims

If you want a good concrete example of how Super Bowl economic-benefit claims are bunk, just keep in mind this paragraph from a Sunday New York Times article on the subject:

In a forthcoming paper, [Berry College economist Frank] Stephenson examines the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl, which generated 224,000 hotel stays, according to its economic impact report. Indianapolis serves as an apt comparison to Minneapolis since it is a cold-weather city in the Midwest. Actually, in the week leading up to the Super Bowl and the three days afterward, Indianapolis hotels rented an additional 49,000 rooms compared with what would be expected, less than a quarter of the estimate.

That is a large discrepancy! We’ll have to wait for Berry’s full paper to get into the nitty-gritty of where all those Super Bowl visitors are staying, but it certainly helps explain why other economists like Holy Cross’s Victor Matheson have found the economic impact of the game to be less than a quarter what the NFL and host cities claim.

Stephenson goes on to note that there’s likely a ton of leakage of that money from the local economy, since fans “don’t give it to the housekeeper or bellboy or front-desk person; a lot of it just flows to whoever owns the hotel” — or as Matheson once put it, “Imagine an airplane landing at an airport and everyone gets out and gives each other a million bucks, then gets back on the plane. That’s $200 million in economic activity, but it’s not any benefit to the local economy.”

Meanwhile, the city of Minneapolis is spending $50 million on hosting the game (on top of the billion dollars or so it put into the Vikings‘ new stadium that’s hosting it), though it says it’s raised it from corporate donors. I think I’ll wait to see what the actual numbers look like after the fact, though — it’s becoming increasingly clear that when it comes to the Super Bowl, you want to check the final bill, not the initial estimates.

Harris County demands repayment for Houston Super Bowl costs, told “sorry, too late”

Harris County spent $1.3 million on security and other support for Super Bowl LI in Houston, and now county officials are asking that the NFL — or really, the Super Bowl Host Committee, a nonprofit that acts as conduit for Super Bowl spending — reimburse them. Which, unfortunately, they didn’t think to ask for in their contract for the event, and the host committee says no backsies:

Super Bowl Host Committee officials say they would like to reimburse taxpayers but are not obligated to because the county did not, in its offers of support for the weeklong event, negotiate that it be compensated or repaid by organizers. The city of Houston did and has been repaid $5.5 million by the host committee…

“It is very shortsighted,” said Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle. “There will be future events, future Super Bowls.”

Yes, there will! And Harris County is welcome to try to negotiate repayment of costs for future events, though given the NFL’s typical demands for being allowed to host the game, good luck with that. (Really, the city of Houston should be applauded for even getting repayment for its security costs, as well as for turning down NFL demands for $50 million in renovations to a nearly-new stadium and still landing the game.)

Meanwhile, does the Houston Chronicle’s report include unverified claims of the massive windfall Houston allegedly received from the game? Of course it does:

Super Bowl organizers tout some $347 million in economic impact from the game, the amount visitors spent while in Houston.

And how much would have been spent by the would-be visitors who steered clear of Houston because of the Super Bowl? You know, like happened the year before in Santa Clara? Nah, it says $347 million in a popup right on the host committee’s website, it’s gotta be true, right?

New L.A. stadium won’t host Super Bowl until 2022, we know you’re broken up about this

Now that the new Los Angeles Rams and Chargers stadium has been delayed until 2020 thanks to rain, the NFL has moved the 2021 Super Bowl to Tampa and given the 2022 Super Bowl to L.A., because of a league rule that says stadiums can’t host Super Bowls in their first seasons, or because the league was afraid the stadium wouldn’t be ready by 2021, or because the rule is there because of fears stadiums won’t be ready on time or — wait, what the heck is this?

Somehow I’d missed this particular Inglewood stadium rendering, which makes it look kind of like a space-age tennis racket suspended on pillars over an open pit. It almost certainly won’t look much like this — for one thing, everything used to build it won’t be blazing white, and neither will all the surrounding buildings and parking lots — but that appears to be somebody’s best attempt to depict a translucent (?) roof with some kind of video boards suspended from it, and … you know what, we should probably just wait to see this thing. I get why it’s going to cost $2 billion now, though, even if I still don’t quite get why Stan Kroenke wants to spend that much.

Minneapolis developer claims Super Bowl will fund its affordable housing project, is this for real?

Could it be? An actual benefit that a city is getting from hosting the Super Bowl? That’s what the Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting about that city’s hosting of the 2018 game, which has supposedly helped local developers create a new subsidized housing project for middle-income earners:

[For-profit developer] Ryan [Cos.], First Covenant Church, and Community Housing Development Corp. (CHDC) a year ago outlined a rough vision for a six-story apartment building across S. 6th Street from the new Vikings stadium. This week, they submitted to the city a near-final plan for the $38 million project, which was designed by UrbanWorks Architecture…

Ryan, First Covenant and CHDC found a way to make the math work for their project, one that takes the Olympics for inspiration. They have an unnamed private partner with a nice budget for housing and operational space during the Super Bowl festivities that is close to committing to the project.

Since the building’s site is within the Super Bowl’s required security perimeter, 500 feet from the stadium, the group plans to first rent the building to this private entity at a rate that would make the project financially possible — and without subsidy.

So, great, right? The “unnamed private partner” gets space to use during the Super Bowl, people earning $20,000 to $55,000 a year get some new affordable apartments, and it’s a win-win all around!

Well, maybe. The developers say their model is Olympic Villages, which after the games are over are often repurposed for other uses, but those are usually built with Olympics money, not paid for by a particular private entity looking to rent short-term space. Not only is the CHDC’s private partner unnamed, but so is the amount they’re willing to pay to rent the buildings for Super Bowl week — you can get a one-bedroom in downtown Minneapolis during the Super Bowl on Airbnb for a whopping $8,000 a night, so if you double that for the prime location and multiply by a full week and for 160 apartments, that’s: $20 million, maybe? And that’s the retail price, so I’d be very surprised if the private partner is paying more than $10 million for the Super Bowl rental, which comes to about $60,000 an apartment, which is about one-quarter the typical cost of building affordable housing in Minneapolis, though if they just need it to span the gap between their costs and what renters can afford to pay … maybe. Or it’s possible this project would be happening anyway, but they’re getting a little extra cash and some added publicity via the Super Bowl angle.

I would love to see a way to fund affordable housing on the backs of rich people who are willing to pay whatever it takes to live next to the Super Bowl for a week, but I’d need to see more numbers (and names) attached to this before I’m willing to give it the full three cheers. In housing as in stadiums, please hold your applause until all the financial details are in.

NFL gives three Super Bowls to cities with new stadiums, implies, “Keep ’em coming”

The NFL awarded the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Super Bowls to Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles yesterday, continuing its policy of using the big game as a reward to cities and teams with new or significantly renovated stadiums. Or as Rams owner Stan Kroenke said following the decision, “I think they are telling the communities and the owners who stick their necks out that it’s worthwhile.”

The most important target of the announcement, then, isn’t the three cities that will now get the questionable benefit of hosting the NFL’s annual week-long road show, but those that are being wooed with that dubious carrot. Right now most of the reporting is on how New Orleans and Tampa Bay were snubbed because their stadiums aren’t as shiny as the cities that got the nod, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays into future coverage of stadium campaigns — already, San Diego Union Tribune chief Chargers stadium cheerleader Kevin Acee has written that the possibility of getting a Super Bowl shouldn’t be the reason to vote for a new stadium, but really he means that you should vote for a new stadium regardless, so all remains right with the world.

Interestingly, there’s no reporting yet that I can see out of Las Vegas on the Super Bowl decision, but that may be because they’re too busy covering yesterday’s conflicting comments on a potential Oakland Raiders move from owner Mark Davis (“This is the real deal. If Las Vegas can come through, we’re going to be there”) and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (“It’s very premature at this point. Until we have more information, it’s pure speculation”). This could be just everyone playing their role — in terms of using Vegas as leverage in hopes of drumming up stadium subsidies from Oakland, Davis is bad cop, Goodell is good cop — or it could be a sign of deeper rifts among league owners over whether Davis should get to bolt from a bigger market to a smaller one in exchange for a lucrative (to him) stadium deal, and on what terms. We won’t know for sure until the next ESPN postmortem, I expect.

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?