Is Hosting the Super Bowl Worth It?

The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots will square off Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX with the specter of “deflategate” – allegations that the Patriots used underinflated footballs during their victory over the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago – hanging overhead. Seattle is looking to win its second consecutive title, while the Patriots are looking for their fourth championship and first since 2005.


But the matchup on the field is just one battle over the big game. Outside the confines of University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, which is where the game will be played this year, the question of whether it is worth it for a city to host the Super Bowl is gaining new attention after Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers said, “I totally believe we will lose money on this.” Weiers, who said that the city could lose millions of dollars playing host, has pushed for a measure that would have the state reimburse Glendale for its costs; that effort was shut down by the state legislature. “I’m not anti-Super Bowl or anti-NFL. I just want to make sure my citizens are covered,” Weiers told the New York Times.

The National Football League and Super Bowl organizers consistently claim that the game provides economic benefits to the host city. Economists, though, consistently find the opposite: The Super Bowl confers no significant economic boost and pre-game economic impact estimates are almost always too rosy. “The hosting of a Super Bowl can drive people away from the city for fear of congestion, high prices and heightened security,” explained sports economist Andrew Zimbalist. “Hosting also imposes additional security and hospitality costs on a host city. When Super Bowls are hosted in warm climate cities, the likelihood that football fans are simply replacing sun lovers, golfers, tennis players and recreational fishermen is all the greater.”

Still, being the host has its defenders.”There is something dubious about all the criticism this city of about 230,000 west of Phoenix has received ahead of the Super Bowl,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Helliker. Robert Tuchman, president of the sports and entertainment marketing company Goviva, said, “the value that [the NFL is] bringing to [the host] definitely far outweighs the demands that they put on those cities, or what they have to succumb to, to actually host the event.”

So is hosting the Super Bowl worth it? Here is the Debate Club’s take:

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