Jury is still out on Super Bowl's economic impact

Super Bowl XLIX is in the books and the dust is settling in Glendale, Arizona, but the event's economic impact on the city is still being determined.

Fans gather outside of University of Phoenix Stadium prior to Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.
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Fans gather outside of University of Phoenix Stadium prior to Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.

The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee estimates the event had an economic impact of more than $500 million in Glendale, David Rousseau, its chairman, said. The committee bases its projection on a study conducted by Arizona State University examining the economic impact from Super Bowl XLII in 2008, also held in Glendale.

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The ASU analysis was commissioned by the committee and determined the earlier Super Bowl brought in about $500 million to the city, Rousseau said. The study measured the event's economic impact by considering car and hotel room rentals as well as number of people travelling to the contest by plane, among other variables, he added. "[ASU] did the analysis and surveying to determine the per capita spending in that population," he said. "That's how they got to the $500 million."

This Super Bowl's economic impact will be determined in about one month, once ASU concludes a new study, Rousseau said.

Some economists believe the Super Bowl's economic impact is considerably lower than the committee's estimates.

Victor Matheson, a College of the Holy Cross economist who focuses on sports economics, said non-NFL economists estimate this Super Bowl's economic impact to be around $30 million. Matheson said the disparity between both estimates consists of several factors.

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Non-NFL economists do not take into account local spending when calculating the event's economic impact on the host city because they say local spending would have been there anyway, Matheson said.

Another reason both estimates differ so much is because the money spent by travelers in the host city does not stay there, Matheson added. "[The money] usually goes back to the corporate headquarters (of hotel chains and car rental companies) in New York City," he said.

Matheson also said hotel room rentals should not change much despite the event. "Hotels in the area would've been full anyway because the [Greater Phoenix area] is a hot tourism destination [right now]," he said.

Nevertheless, Matheson said the Super Bowl does have a much greater economic impact than other sporting events, such as the Olympics.

"The main difference between the Super Bowl and the Olympics is that [the latter] is far more expensive to put on," he said. "[The Olympics] require very specialized infrastructure that's hard to use once they are over. For the Super Bowl, they're using an existing stadium that's going to be used [after] it's over."

Rousseau did acknowledge the disparity in the estimates.

"I've seen people, economists in particular, challenge that number [referring to the $500 million]." He also said that, while Glendale's hotel industry already enjoys occupancy rates of low-to-mid-80 percent, that number goes up to about 100 percent during the Super Bowl.