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.