The Super Bowl continues to suck cities in with false promises of economic glory

Did you hear? Santa Clara found $240 million dollars in their bank account! Wait, no. Santa Clara was given $240 million dollars by the NFL! No, that isn’t right either. Ok, I got it this time. In 2016, the San Francisco 49ers released a statement claiming that the city of Santa Clara and San Francisco (SC/SF) saw a “net positive economic impact … of at least $240 million”.

This came from a so-called “independent study” and the 49ers milked it up by releasing PR piece after PR piece where all sorts of people called the Super Bowl a “smart investment” and an investment that “paid off handsomely”.

— Twitter

This report emphasized that everyone won.

After much political finger-pointing about why San Francisco taxpayers were footing the bills for Super Bowl 50-related services when Santa Clara’s weren’t, it appears that San Francisco made money, hotels made money, shops and restaurants made money and — you can be sure — the National Football League made money– BizJournal, 08/19/16

Only problem? It is complete bullshit. The NFL has been lying about the actual economic impact on cities over many years and counting. The third-party research firm, SportsImpacts, has been called out before when issuing reports with insane numbers. The team pays a company like SportsImpacts to write a financial report that helps their cause. Los Angeles needed some good PR before they hosted the 2022 Super Bowl, so they called SportsImpacts. This allowed for a report to be written up showing just how many millions the area will generate from the Super Bowl.

Besides this number given to us by SportsImpacts, there isn’t a single piece of evidence showing that anyone benefitted to the degree of $240 million. Local city budgets for Santa Clara and surrounding areas show no difference at all. In fact, San Jose admitted after the 2016 Super Bowl that they expected millions yet got just enough to pay for the costs of hosting the events required outside the game.

— LVSportsBiz

In fact, this happens almost every year. The NFL wants cities to be running over one another to host it. That way, they continue to be given a black box of money that never runs out. The NFL has continued to hide what it requires cities to pay for even though they are asking for taxpayer money. How on earth can that be kept secret? The only time it managed to come out was in 2014 when someone on Minnesota’s committee leaked some of the NFL requirements for a city/state.

In order to deliver a Super Bowl, the NFL wants free luxury hotel rooms, police escorts and tax exemption from the host city. A leaked report reveals the league’s 153 pages of requests for the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis– SBNation, 06/08/14

Yet, even with these massive demands, one would think that the Super Bowl would financially be a home run. Well? When the New York Times looked into the claim that the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis was some sort of economic giant, they instead found that the true numbers were barely 1/4th of what was previously reported. Or let’s look at Glendale, Arizona, where it was reported that the economic impact of the 2015 Super Bowl was over $500 million dollars! Local cities must have missed that money, as the costs of the game and its other events cost Phoenix taxpayers around $2 million.

Why are cities not making more money off this big event? Because they are paying millions upon millions in expenses mandated by the NFL. Bloomberg wrote an excellent story after the 2016 Super Bowl, in which they noted how local taxpayers paid the bill for hosting the Super Bowl and its many off-field festivities. The NFL, a multi-billion dollar company, pays nothing, let me repeat that, nothing during Super Bowl weeks because of a deal between the city and the NFL Host Committee. If you were wondering, local taxpayers did pay for the construction of the stadium in Santa Clara. As Bloomberg discovered in their story about the 2016 Super Bowl, there is a vast amount of evidence that suggests that the Super Bowl benefits are overstated and not worth the cost of hosting.

— ResearchGate

Fast-forward to this year. Guess who will be hosting the Super Bowl in 2026? Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers. Guess what we are starting to hear?

The San Francisco Travel Association said Super Bowl 50 brought an additional $240 million into the local economy– NBC Bay Area, 05/18/23

Heck, some are even adding to the make-believe numbers supporting hosting the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl 50 generated $250 million in economic impact for the region, creating thousands of jobs for local residents. Super Bowl 60 is a chance to build on that success and will be a boon for the Bay Area– SVVoice, 05/25/23

— Yahoo Finance

Thankfully, many in the media are catching on. After Santa Clara was awarded the Super Bowl for 2026, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story noted of how overinflated the economic promises are by NFL boosters.

When we look at data for cities that hosted the Super Bowl, they usually get an increase in economic activity of $50 million to $150 millionThat’s not nothing, but a fraction of the $400 million to $600 million number thrown around by the boosters– San Francisco,05/20/23, Victor Matheson, Sports Economist at Holy Cross and co-author of  “The Economics of the Super Bowl: Players, Performers, and Cities.”

Let’s just hope that Santa Clara continues the long held tradition of trying to hide or swat away any homeless who try to venture over towards the game or one of its many parties. Dallas, Detroit, Jacksonville, Glendale, and New Orleans are cities that have in the past attempted to keep the homeless away from the stadiums.

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