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The only thing less certain than who will win Super Bowl XLIX between defending champs Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots on Feb. 1 is how much revenue the big game will bring in to offset the cost of hosting America's biggest sporting event.
The NFL claims that host cities will reap $600 million, but many sports economists say that number is inflated, given the amount of money spent on operational costs, staffing, security, technology, vendors and the weeklong pregame hoopla.
Add to that the NFL's latest huge list of Host City Bid Specifications and Requirements—a 153-page document submitted to Super Bowl LII contenders that requested such things as "100 percent of the revenues from all ticket sales," "exclusive access to all club seats" and "exclusive, cost-free use of 35,000" parking spaces for game-day parking—and it leaves people to beg the question:
Why are Super Bowl bids so competitive, anyway?
CNBC recently spoke with Jonathan Tisch, co-chairman of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee and co-owner of the New York Giants, to find out what it was like to host Super Bowl XLVIII—the first-ever open-air cold-weather Super Bowl in NFL history—what advice he can offer future hosts, and whether NY/NJ ever hopes to be another Super Bowl bid contender.
CNBC: The NFL says that there's a $600 million return when you host a Super Bowl. Did you come close to that number?
TISCH: Our estimates were that the Super Bowl brought about $500 million into the New York/New Jersey region, and that this was during a time of the year when tourism is a little bit lower than other times on the calendar, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to not only derive additional capital for our region but also to bring attention—worldwide attention—to many of the reasons why people want to come to NY and NJ. … The response was terrific. We had millions of media impressions around the world, and most people were very pleased with the Super Bowl.
CNBC: How will hosting the game make for a good return on investment if the NFL continues to increase the requests it makes of hosts?
TISCH: Each municipality and each home team that is bidding on the game is going to have to make decisions that are part of the process to see if they want to bid on it. And I certainly can't comment on what the NFL has asked before those [teams]. They have to decide if there is a benefit.
CNBC: Can you share what the revenue return was for the Giants vs. the region?
CNBC: Were you thinking about hosting the Super Bowl when you were building the brand-new MetLife Stadium?
TISCH: Oh, certainly. We always had it in mind that we wanted MetLife to be one of the elite that the 32 teams would look at as a great facility to highlight wonderful football games. With the new stadiums being built, there are always new technologies available, and I haven't been to any of the new stadiums except for the one in San Francisco. … But if you look back at the recently opened stadiums, whether it's what Jerry Jones created in Dallas or what the Jets and the Giants created in the Meadowlands or in San Francisco, it's always going to be state of the art, and that's the world that we live in. Technology is always evolving, and technology is a very important part of football going forward.
CNBC: There's a lot of concern about security, of course, surrounding the Super Bowl. What were your concerns and what was the cost to protect the stadium?
TISCH: There was tremendous cooperation between all of law enforcement on both sides of the Hudson, and we were very pleased with the response from the troops at NYPD, NJ state police, local entities, and I cannot go into the cost.
CNBC: Would your decision to host the Super Bowl have been impacted at all with all the terrorism that is going on today in the world?
TISCH: We certainly live in a world where we have to be aware of security challenges all the time, and I'm sure law enforcement has taken current conditions into account as they plan for the Super Bowl in Phoenix.
CNBC: Were there any surprises that came up during the Super Bowl that you could share with us?
TISCH: There are always issues that arise for an event of this scale and magnitude. When you consider that we had Super Bowl Boulevard in the heart of New York City for five days and we had some 250,000 to 300,000 people a day in Times Square—and there was not one arrest—(that) showed you that this was an event that all New Yorkers and all visitors embraced, and we were able to ensure the safety of those who were able to enjoy Super Bowl XLVIII.
CNBC: Leading up to it, the media was all over the fact that there was going to be a polar vortex threatening the game. How did you handle this?
TISCH: I was as nervous as the media. But our contingency plans had contingency plans. We were prepared for anything that Mother Nature threw our way. …There was a lot of conversation for the weeks and months leading up to the game—between the host committee, local municipalities, media. The NFL asked us what would happen if it snowed the day before, because there was a big storm predicted for the day after. And fortunately, at game time, we were blessed with warmish weather and no precipitation.
CNBC: What do you think was the most rewarding part of hosting the Super Bowl?
TISCH: That it was about 45 degrees and there was no snow during the game.
CNBC: Would you ever host the Super Bowl again?
TISCH: My sense is that in a few years, the Jets and the Giants will get together and have a conversation about the interest in hosting another Super Bowl. Both teams were pleased with the few days leading up to the game and the game itself. The next few years are committed, and so in a couple years we will probably have that conversation.
CNBC: What advice would you offer future hosts of the Super Bowl or to those who are bidding for the game?
TISCH: In a few weeks we will have Super Bowl XLIX, so for 48 other years, many cities have hosted the game and the majority of them have been successful. It's a tremendous amount of work, and the commitment of the men and women who form the host committee on the event really work hard to ensure that it is a seamless experience. It's a big job, but the rewards—whether they be financial or emotional—are very tangible and benefit an area for many years to come.
CNBC: Any final words on how you feel about your experience hosting last year's game?
TISCH: A year later I am pleased that I can sit in front of my TV and watch it with a lot less stress. And I'm sure it's going to be a terrific game, as it usually is.
CNBC: Who do you hope will win this year's Super Bowl?
TISCH: The Giants, but they're not in it.