The Super Bowl is not a job creator

Despite what civic boosters say, hosting the big game provides few long-term benefits

Topics: Super Bowl, Football,

The Super Bowl is not a job creator (Credit: AP/Michael Conroy)

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, argued on “60 Minutes” last Sunday that the NFL is one professional organization designed to appeal to the economic interests of the little guy: Its revenue-sharing model, he said, gives a fighting chance to squads from Green Bay and Buffalo as well as to those from large media markets like New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

On the eve of the Super Bowl, Goodell was touting the familiar idea that the sport’s biggest game is a boon to economic development. But with the cost of a ticket now averaging  $3,982 and 30-second television spots selling for $3.5 million, the Super Bowl can appear to be more an occasion for ostentatious excess than an engine of development.

This year’s Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee, which has a budget of $25 million, predicts the game will inject anywhere from $150 million to $400 million into the local economy, according to Dianne Boyce, communications director for the host committee.

Amid the continued economic uncertainty, this may sound like a lot of money. But for a major metropolitan city, the impact will likely be  short-term only.

Consider last year’s game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The North Texas Host Committee’s executive summary from April 7, 2011, summed up its belief that the game was an unprecedented economic catalyst for the region, declaring grandly:

“North Texas will forever celebrate Super Bowl XLV, the most impactful event in the region’s history and the most important sports event in the world in 2011.”



But  the Dallas News reported last February that the “Super Bowl was not a rising tide that lifted all boats … Hotels and restaurants that were part of official NFL activities, or apt to attract A-listers, reported full rooms and brisk business. Other food sellers and hoteliers said great expectations faded as the week wore on and the hoped-for masses failed to materialize.”

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data for Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, a small portion of steady job growth in the 10 months that followed could be attributed to the game. The  Dallas Business Journal reported last week that unemployment in Dallas has dipped from 8.5 percent last January to 7.1 percent. But Bill Lively, the president and CEO of the 2011 North Texas Super Bowl, conceded in an interview the 2 million-plus population of Dallas made it unlikely that the game would be responsible for extended increases in employment.

To Lively, the game served an important community function: unifying three important regions of Texas. The cooperation between Fort Worth, Dallas and Arlington was a “real triumph” that catapulted a city to greatness. He hopes that the Super Bowl will return to the area soon.

Duane Dankesreiter, the vice president of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, also stressed the secondary benefits of hosting the big game. “The global exposure of an event of that size is tremendous. It gave us an opportunity to introduce North Texas to millions of people and to spread the word about what a great place DFW is to live and work,”  he said.

But the Super Bowl did not figure in the city’s long-term economic planning, says Daniel Oney, who works in the Dallas Office of Economic Development. He told me that his office did not  engage in broader strategic thinking about hosting it.

“I’m not aware of anything we did to support or hinder the Super Bowl,” he said.

Dennis Coates, a professor of economics at University of Maryland with a specialty in sports, said that all evidence from “benefits, employment, tax revenue generation and so on … indicates that proponents wildly exaggerate the impact of the Super Bowl.”

Mark Rosentraub, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, urges the public to “resist trying to make the argument that there are any meaningful or long-term economic effects” from hosting a Super Bowl.

The Dallas Host Committee did boast of a $7.15 million surplus from last year’s game. Texas journalist Scott Nishimura reported in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the windfall was redirected toward charity and a new Super Bowl bid, rather than broader economic development. According to the committee, the funds supported:

the NFL Youth Education Town (YET) center for at-risk youths, which is being built in Arlington as the league’s “legacy” project for the area; the North Texas Food Bank; the Tarrant Area Food Bank; and the NFL’s Slant 45 service projects in North Texas. The YET center, scheduled to open early next year, will receive half the surplus beyond the $2 million reserve; the food banks will get 20 percent each; and Slant 45 will get 10 percent.

Like Dallas, Indianapolis is relying on the hope that the secondary perks of the game will translate into future business. Boyce has told me and other journalists that the “NFL estimates that over 60 percent of those people are corporate decision makers, so those are key people who, if they come to Indianapolis and have a positive experience, will come back.”

For Indianapolis restaurateurs and business owners, the hope is that the economic surge crosses class lines this year. That forecast is more plausible in Indianapolis, where the events are centralized in the city, whereas the commerce generated by last year’s game was spread across three localities of metropolitan Dallas. But in Indianapolis, Boyce said that there is no comprehensive economic strategy for channeling the short-term economic gains into the long-term development of  the city.

The economic benefits of this year’s Super Bowl will not be tallied until after the Lombardi Trophy is awarded on Sunday. But don’t be surprised if they are modest.

Alexander Heffner is a freelance journalist whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>