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Do cities actually lose money hosting the Super Bowl?

In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, economists are debating the fiscal wisdom of cities that compete to host the big game. Do cities lose money when they host the Super Bowl? Mina Kimes, a senior writer for ESPN, spoke with Hari Sreenivasan on the issue.

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  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Today, of course, is Super Bowl Sunday.

    In the days leading up to the game, fans debated which team will win, and economists debated the wisdom of cities trying to host the big game.

    Yesterday, Hari Sreenivasan spoke with Mina Kimes, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, each year, we see cities compete for the Super Bowl as if it's the Olympics, as if it is going to bring tons of money, and energy and excitement.

    Is it worth hosting the Super Bowl?

  • MINA KIMES, ESPN The Magazine:

    Well, so for Glendale, which is where this year's game is, it might not be.

    The city hosted the game in 2008. And I had read that they had said, oh, we actually lost money, which was surprising.

    So, I called the mayor, who told me, not only did we lose money then; we are totally going to lose money this year, which is an absolutely stunning statement from a public official.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    How are they losing money?

  • MINA KIMES:

    So, the game is in Glendale, but many of the events, the tourists, the hotels, are actually in Phoenix and Scottsdale.

    So, you're going to have a lot of people coming in for the game and then leaving. And the city has to spend money on security, costs like that.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, this also happened last year when…

  • MINA KIMES:

    Exactly.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    With the Super Bowl in New York, right?

  • MINA KIMES:

    Right.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Actually, I said New York.

  • MINA KIMES:

    There you go, right, a perfect example, right.

  • MINA KIMES:

    The actual game was in New Jersey, but everyone remembers that it was the New York Super Bowl.

    So, as a result, New Jersey felt kind of spurned in a way by the game.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    OK.

    So, what about — how do the NFL owners feel in these towns? Is there tension between the mayors and the owners?

  • MINA KIMES:

    Well, there definitely is in Arizona.

    So, the owners, they want game. There's huge benefits to have it at their stadium. It's great for the team.

    And the Cardinals' owner, Mike Bidwill, has actually publicly clashed with the mayor of Glendale about his, shall we say, lack of enthusiasm over hosting the game this year.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And cities and towns put a lot of money into building stadiums…

  • MINA KIMES:

    Yes.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    … so that they can get events like this.

  • MINA KIMES:

    Glendale being a perfect example of where that has gone wrong.

    This city has contributed money to three major sports facilities over the last 10 years and now is absolutely mired in debt.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You know, there are economists or that — that are going to say, look at all of — or, I should say, maybe even the NFL will say, look at all the money that comes in with all the tourists.

    Don't they spend a couple extra bucks here and couple extra bucks there?

    So you are saying — or the mayor of that town is saying that it doesn't make up for the cops that I have to put on the beat?

  • MINA KIMES:

    So, the NFL definitely says that.

    Economists mostly don't. In fact, a lot of economists will — who are independent, right, will come out and say, actually, the benefits of these games and especially stadiums are incredibly overblown, because, in a lot of cases, you are displacing other tourists that would normally be in especially a warm place like Phoenix in the winter.

    And, oftentimes, it is indirect spending, publicity, things you can't really put a clear number on.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Right. And I would imagine that the NFL is also going to say that the — what about the sort of brand that you build…

  • MINA KIMES:

    Right. Yes.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    … and the exposure argument, that you are getting all this free airtime. Everybody is talking about the Super Bowl in your town.

  • MINA KIMES:

    And yet you just said the Super Bowl in New York last…

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    I mean, not East Rutherford, New Jersey, right.

  • MINA KIMES:

    A perfect example, right?

    Really, what branding? I mean, our — in America in a year, are people going to remember the Super Bowl was in Glendale?

    Some people will, but I'm guessing a lot of people will just say Phoenix.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Yes.

    And so, and all the celebrities, all that traffic goes to Phoenix, that they don't…

  • MINA KIMES:

    Yes.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    … necessarily come out to Glendale until exactly the game time, and they're there for the game and then they leave.

  • MINA KIMES:

    Much like in New York, I don't think, you know, most of these celebrities were staying in New Jersey last year.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Mina Kimes, senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, thanks so much for joining us.

  • MINA KIMES:

    Thanks for having me.

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