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A not so Super Bowl for NOLA

2013 February 4
by Victor Matheson

While last night’s Super Bowl was certainly filled with excitement on the field, the game may ultimately be best remembered for the the excitement in the utility room as the game was marred by a 34-minute delay due to a power outage at the stadium.

Economists have long taken issue with the NFL and organizing committees’ claims that the Super Bowl brings hundreds of millions of dollars to the host city. While New Orleans claimed a $434 million impact from the game, academic work looking back at past Super Bowls seems to find an identifiable increase of only about one-fifth of that. For example, my 2006 study with Rob Baade of Super Bowls from 1970-2001 found an average increase of just $92 million and was able to reject gains of $300 million or more at a 5% significance level.

When boosters are pressed on the economic data, they will inevitably turn to the claim that we are missing all of the great intangible benefits of the game. The game brings great publicity to the host city, it is said. I often counter that publicity doesn’t always have to be positive, and last night’s events provide one more story to add to the list. Instead of focusing on New Orleans’ fantastic cuisine, culture, nightlife, and music scenes, viewers around the nation were treated to the spectacle of a city that couldn’t even keep its lights on during the biggest night of the year. Not exactly the thing that gets captains of industry to relocate their businesses to the area.

Indeed, rather than a moment in the spot light, NOLA received a moment (34 minutes worth, in fact) in the no lights.

3 Responses
  1. Liam Lenten permalink
    February 4, 2013

    Yeah Vic, I second (actually about 2,040 seconds, in fact) that!

  2. Dan permalink
    February 6, 2013

    New Orleans is a great city for visitors but I’m not sure how much benefit there is when the SB is played in February. Mardi Gras is going on and those hotel rooms were likely to be filled with or without the SB. No other city has a month long party like New Orleans and hosting the big game right in the middle isn’t going to have the impact it would in other cities.

  3. Mike permalink
    February 8, 2013

    Very narrow article missing a lot. First, I agree that the economic impact of super bowls is overblown and over stated. But there are some fair intangibles to consider. Second, CBS basically ran their entire network from the city for an entire week which featured incident free perfect weather, it served as terrific advertising. Third, a number of long needed infrastructure projects were given a hard deadline to be ready in time for super bowl week, giving the typically lethargic public works programs a boost. Fourth, to the poster’s point that it is mardi gras, the upper bowl landed the week before mardi gras, which is more for locals. While hotels in Quarter may have been largely full, the super bowl filled hotels in the greater metro and surrounding region, hotels that might otherwise have ticked at 50% capacity. And all those people brought their money into the city. Again, super bowl impacts are overblown, but I think it very narrow to point to one incident and label the entire experience a fail.

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