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A Super Bowl berth for the National Football Conference-leading Arizona Cardinals would come at the expense of Phoenix-area businesses.
Even after a loss two days ago at the Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals’ 9-2 record leads their conference and is tied with the New England Patriots as best in the National Football League. The Super Bowl will be played at Arizona’s home venue, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, on Feb. 1.
No NFL franchise has played a Super Bowl in its home stadium, and through 11 games Arizona has a better record than any team that had a chance to play the game in its own building. If the Cardinals reach the championship for the second time in seven years, some other team’s fans won’t be traveling to the Phoenix area for the weeklong festivities. That would diminish the most valuable aspect of hosting such a grand event, according to sports economists.
“It would harm economic impact,” said Victor Matheson, a sports economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. “You would have more local people spending money on the game rather than new money coming from out of town.”
The NFL and local organizing committees generally estimate that the Super Bowl brings in about $500 million of economic impact to the host community. Sports economists suggest moving the decimal point one place to the left, to about $50 million, said both Matheson and Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and author of 12 books on the business of sports.
The only spending that affects the economic impact of hosting a sporting event comes from out-of-towners, since local residents would otherwise spend their money elsewhere in the community, Zimbalist said in a phone interview.
“If there is going to be income, that is going to be the income,” Zimbalist said. “Not most — that’s the income that you get.”
Hosting the Super Bowl in a winter tourist destination such as Phoenix also creates a strong replacement effect, sending regular vacationers elsewhere, the economists said.
University of Phoenix Stadium, which also hosted the Super Bowl in 2008, will hold about 70,000 people for the championship, according to David Rousseau, chairman of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee. With each team receiving 15 percent of tickets to distribute, or about 10,500, revenue gained from one team’s supporters is a small part of the total, Rousseau said in a telephone interview.
“Even though local fans and companies would have a better opportunity to go, that’s not to say the tickets would end up here,” Rousseau said. “My experience over the last couple of years, it’s the same crowd that’s going with a little bit of emphasis on the two teams that are participating.”
The Cardinals’ play so far this season has helped Rousseau do his job, he said, and a Super Bowl run probably would include additional playoff games in Phoenix — and more revenue for the area.
“As we raise money to fulfill our obligation to the NFL, we’re trading off whatever the football collateral is in town,” Rousseau said. “That currency goes up with each win. It’s created a great buzz.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has told his players this season, “Don’t let anyone dress in your lockers,” an effort at motivating them to defend their home turf, according to Sports Illustrated. In reality, University of Phoenix Stadium has three locker rooms, so the Cardinals’ wouldn’t have to give theirs up.
“Bruce is going to be safe regardless of how they do the rest of the way,” Rousseau said.
The only NFL team that won a Super Bowl in its home market was the San Francisco 49ers, who capped a 15-1 regular season in 1984 with a title-game win against the Miami Dolphins at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California, about 30 miles southeast of the 49ers’ Candlestick Park.
Teams historically have struggled during the season when their market was to serve as Super Bowl host, posting a combined 337-424-4 record since the game began with the 1966 season. That includes multiple-team markets such as New York, whose Giants went 7-9 and Jets went 8-8 last season with the game at their shared MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Both economists agreed that a Cardinals run to the Super Bowl would provide a non-monetary benefit to the Phoenix community: happiness.
“It’s a social benefit in that Phoenix fans get excited and that makes them feel good and makes their life better,” Zimbalist said. “I don’t want to minimize that.”
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