Refreshing honesty from the Super Bowl mayor

Last week, Glendale, Arizona mayor Jerry Weiers said that his city would lose money hosting the Super Bowl. In fact, Weiers said, it lost money the last time it hosted the Super Bowl, in 2008 (though, to be fair, that was one of the greatest nights of my entire life). Profootball talk’s Mike Florio noted all of this huffily:

Here’s the solution, Mayor Weiers.  If the costs exceed the benefits, don’t bid on the game. If Glendale doesn’t want the game, someone else will.  It’s the premier American sporting event, and the international exposure and influx of visitors more than outweighs the expense.  If that weren’t the case, the process of securing the game would be far less competitive than it is.

Leaving aside the fact that Weiers wasn’t in charge for either bidding process, there other reasons why municipalities invest in stadia and other mega sporting events – their leaders are effectively shilling for the powerful economic interests that *do* benefit from these events. But Florio’s little snit is a useful opportunity to remind everyone that, while economists don’t agree on much, there is a virtual consensus on the interrelated issues of whether hosting a mega-sporting event or subsidizing a stadium with taxpayer money actually benefits the public generally. The indispensable Neil deMause has the goods on Super Bowl hosting in particular. Among other things, deMause catalogs a series of credulous media reports that, more or less drawing their reporting from industry flacks, pass along as gospel the benefits of being a doormat for the NFL’s main event. De Mause also highlights some of the good reporting on this issue. The New York Times’ Catherine Rampell looked into whether Super Bowl XLVIII, played last year in the Meadowlands, would really be the windfall for New York City that its boosters claimed. When she tracked down a Super Bowl spokesperson to inquire about the study underlying the exaggerated benefits, that individual “could not say why it was never released, who created it, what the underlying assumptions were, or even whether it represented just benefits or included costs.” Rampell also asked a Holy Cross economist, Victor Matheson, who has studied economic impact statements related to sports hosting, who told Rampell that those estimates ““flawed, myopic or outright fraudulent.” Perfect. Of course, as long as ESPN employees are treated well by the organizing committees and get their cherished sit-downs with team owners and the like, it’s all good. (By the way, if you want an opportunity to pull your hair out everyday, deMause’s Field of Schemes blog is a great option).


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