Friday, July 14, 2017

5 Questions About the True Cost of Tampa's 2021 Super Bowl Bid...and its Secrecy

The Tampa Bay Sports Commission has just five weeks left to secure the necessary commitments to host Super Bowl LV in 2021, including hotel rooms, infrastructure and public resources. However, taxpayers may never know the extent of the promises – or their cost – because so much of the NFL’s bidding process remains secretive.

Over on WTSP, I dug deeper on what the championship game could cost taxpayers – and why the process isn’t more transparent. And got answers on the following five questions:

Question 1: Why don’t taxpayers know what’s promised to the NFL?
Free parking, presidential suites and outings at local golf courses are just the beginning of what potential host cities promise to the NFL in hopes of landing a Super Bowl.

Had it not been for a leaked document from Minneapolis’ 2014 bid, the world may never know the extent of the concessions made behind closed doors.

“The Super Bowl is one of the most competitive bid processes out there,” said Rob Higgins, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. “If our first Super Bowl bid came to light, I don’t know that we would have had a second or a third or a fourth.”

Higgins said the NFL expects – and rewards – confidentiality. While the Tampa host committee plans on disclosing how all public dollars will be spent, many of the promised resources and concessions to the NFL are covered by private donations.

Published reports have pegged the private fundraising for recent Super Bowls between $40 and $80 million, although Tampa doesn’t have the same corporate base as the last two host cities, Houston and Santa Clara/San Francisco.

Question 2: What will the Super Bowl cost taxpayers?
Higgins said the public cost to the 2009 Tampa Super Bowl was slightly more than $4 million, although that didn’t include countless man-hours from city, county and state employees, who were redirected from their typical duties to work event-related tasks.

However, security demands have increased since then, and Tampa’s then-Mayor Pam Iorio also aimed to cap city expenditures at $1 million when the bid was submitted in 2005.

This year, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Tampa City Council passed a resolution that promised to provide an endless slew of city services, from police to fire to landscaping, “at no cost to the NFL” and without any cap.

Buckhorn says the city has been successful at limiting expenditures to approximately $1 million for similar events, such as the College Football Championship game in January, and he would hope to do the same in 2021.

“We’re going to be financially responsible in how we pursue (major events), but I think it's well worth the investment,” Buckhorn said.

The NFL will also enjoy perks such as free parking and tax abatements at virtually every event it participates in Super Bowl week, and won’t even have to pay the typical state sales tax on tickets, since the legislature passed a law exempting Super Bowl tickets from state taxes. With an average Super Bowl ticket price now more than $1,300, the NFL will pocket an extra $6 million from the tax abatement.

That could be part of a free tax package worth more than $10 million to the league; money that won't be spent on Florida's schools, roads or safety agencies.

Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, the state-funded Florida Sports Foundation and several other local agencies are all expected to contribute cash toward Tampa's hosting effort as well.

“(The NFL) has monopolized the minds of the American public,” said longtime Tampa city councilman Charlie Miranda, a longtime opponent of subsidies for pro teams. “There's nothing wrong with being a millionaire or a billionaire. But you have to have some human interest in your heart for everybody that lives in those cities.”

Question 3: Why should taxpayers pay for any of the Super Bowl?
The NFL is expected to bring in $14 billion in revenue this year. The city of Tampa is expected to bring in $0.9 billion – and its employees tend to make a lot less than the NFL’s. So any contribution toward the NFL’s expenses irks some critics.

“The city doesn’t come first and it doesn’t come second,” Miranda said. “Greed comes first, and more greed comes second.”

However, Buckhorn suggested a seven-digit investment was well worth the returns if that’s what it takes to get a Super Bowl and the international exposure that comes with it.

“We all recognize sports is a business,” Buckhorn said. “To some degree, it’s in the business of municipal extortion.”

And because other cities are willing to provide free resources to the NFL, Tampa has to play the game too if it wants to host the Super Bowl.

“It’s very difficult to swim against the stream,” Miranda added.

Question 4: Does Tampa “need” another Super Bowl?
Four previous Super Bowls, the 2012 Republican National Convention, and the 2017 College Football Playoff championship game were all billed as events to “put Tampa on the map.”

Isn't the Big Guava on most maps by now?

“People know where Tampa is; they didn’t know us before,” Buckhorn said. “That exposure we get (from a Super Bowl) even though there’s a cost associated with it and we recognize that - is invaluable.”

"You've got so many different corporate influences that come into a community for (a Super Bowl),” Higgins added. “To us, it's really unlimited potential of what the residual value can be for an event like this."

Buckhorn also says it’s hard to put a value on the civic pride that comes with hosting a Super Bowl.

Question 5: What is the real return on investment (ROI) from hosting the game?
The NFL and its partners have claimed Super Bowls are worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a community. But those inflated figures are frequently – and easily – disproven.

RELATED: 10Investigates breaks down inflated economic impact reports

Some economists studying receipts after a Super Bowl concluded the actual economic impact of the event – because of disruptions to the typical economy – may be closer to zero.

“Move the decimal one place to the left,” Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson told 10Investigates for a previous story about team- and league-sponsored economic impact reports.

But Higgins, Buckhorn and other proponents of sports tourism say the true impact is somewhere in between the two extremes.

“I see restaurants that are staffing up, catering that are filled,” Buckhorn said. “But most importantly, I see that international exposure we get from TV...and you can’t replace that.”

"It's not just about the economic impact of it,” Higgins added, “the social impact of the College Football Playoff national championship was phenomenal as well. (It brought) $1 million to our local schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco...that's a phenomenal return on investment."

Higgins also pointed to nearly 38,000 mentions of Tampa in news programs and more than 100 million social media impressions for the city from the championship game as well.

RELATED: Tax receipts show no college football boom

For many Tampa businesses, the economic impact could hinge on how disruptive the event will be to the typical February tourist bonanza. The 2012 RNC showed how heavy security could hurt more businesses than a big event can help. But the 2017 College Football Playoff championship game showed how successful an exclusive event can be in Tampa when several game-related events were opened up to the general public.

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  1. Regarding:

    “The Super Bowl is one of the most competitive bid processes out there,” said Rob Higgins, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. “If our first Super Bowl bid came to light, I don’t know that we would have had a second or a third or a fourth.”

    So what if Tampa did not have a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. What difference would it make?

    Buckhorn’s for another Super Bowl because it keeps him in the national news cycle. What benefit does ‘Joe six pack’ get from this boon doggle.


    "It's not just about the economic impact of it,” Higgins added, “the social impact of the College Football Playoff national championship was phenomenal as well. (It brought) $1 million to our local schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco...that's a phenomenal return on investment."

    How much public money was spent to get this $1 million, which is round-off error for the county school budgets? What was the numeric rate of return on investment?

  2. This is a simple question to have answered!

    Don't leave it up to Gov. stats, or others opinions.

    Go into all of Tampa's businesses (and CWB, StP, etc.), and ask the owners and/or managers IF they my make MORE money during the 2 weeks of the SB...

    I'm betting most would say Yes!, and mostly from out-of-towners.

    A reality check this blog doesn't want to hear or you to hear.

    1. Go ahead, Dufala - but start in Brandon. Or Temple Terrace. Or any of the other communities that help pay for events like this but often get hurt by them. I'll be waiting for your surveys!

    2. "Go ahead" and ask the locals of Brandon or TT how they enjoy the redistribution of Hillsborough's wealth stemming from hosting events that draw hundreds of thousands to town, or even millions (especially the unincorporated Brandon). Ask them how many people stay in their jurisdiction when Tampas booked?
      Though your rebuttal speaks volumes of your opinions of the truth, and facts that would require real journalism opposed to re-reporting others.

    3. How about tax receipts from when those events that took place that showed no bump countywide? Facts over anecdotes, my friend. That's journalism.

  3. And if the buisness owners did not have that blip in business every 5 or 10 years, what difference would it make?

    1. Don't ask me, ask all of them & their employees "what difference would it make".
      I guess no one can use extra money, huh?

  4. Bottom line is Super Bowls are a money maker for host cities, and anybody that doesn't understand that is to dumb to live in a progressive place, and should just move to some small town in Sumter, Hardee, Levy County with no tax revenue coming in, none going out...

    1. Amazing how much confidence you have in something that you have no expertise in...or stats to back you up.

      But feel free to catch up on this reading:

    2. Amazing how a self-proclaimed "investigating journalist" offers an opinion on another's, and says they don't have any "expertise" as in that they do, then only offers someone else's reporting to try to back up their claim.
      Hahahaha, maybe they're right, maybe real journalism is dead...

  5. Sorry, but this blog is "alternative fact" based.

  6. I like being dumb and knowing that the millions of dollars of taxpayer money given to the NFL could be better spent not at all, or on useful causes for our citizens, such as schools, colleges, roads, sewers, salaries for teachers, police, firemen, etc.

    1. Com'on man, this isn't that hard to understand. It's not simply "given to the NFL", the money is put toward it's own city to host an event to attract millions of people from all over the world, so they can bring their money and spend it in our community. Aside from all the charitable work done here, the massive increase in city revenue is then turned into (more) money for schools, sewers, police, etc. I know a local cop that worked the NCAA championship & loved the extra money he made from the extra work he was offered. I know the GM of a car dealer across from RayJay, that said was paid a lot of extra money to move their cars so they could use their lots for extra parking. Plus the NFL gives a bunch of money ahead of time to upgrade stuff for the game. Go ask any small town mayor if they would like to host the Super Bowl, then come back and reply to this blog, maybe then you won't sound so...

    2. ... and if hosting Super Bowls, All-Star games, championships, etc. are ALL an economic loss, then why do ALL these local Governments always want to host them? Oh, I forgot, they're ALL dumb, and don't know anything, huh?

    3. They want to "host" them because they haven't done the research and are ignorant to the negative aspects relating to shaking down the taxpayer. Also, they receive kickbacks from NFL, etc....It's all a scam and a lie.

    4. B. Dufala - it is very hard to disagree with your last comment.

    5. (Unknown), or scared to say it!? It's "ignorant" to say it's a "scam". If these events are losing money, why has New Orleans hosted SB & AllStar games since it's hurricane, Detroit's bankruptcy problems was helped by hosting SB & AllStar games. We are pulled by our arms in different directions to believe one narrative over the other, though it's hard to believe having over a million people coming to spend thousands to party in your town is a losing deal. And the money local Government spends mostly stays in-house for security, decor, and set-up events that people pay to play at...

    6. Sigh. Dufala, you spoke to a cop and a GM of a car dealership who both got a lot of taxpayer money and they were both happy - shocker.

      Your comment "The NFL gives a bunch of money ahead of time to upgrade stuff for the game" seems to be without any source - would love whatever evidence you have of this being true here.

      And finally, businesses are not doing MORE charitable donations because of the Super Bowl....they're donating money to the 501(c)3 host committee that they likely would have donated to other local nonprofits instead.

  7. Most Govt. employee's are dumb and ignorant. No private sector experience therefore, they have no concept of accountability. They go "whole hog" when it comes to shelling out taxpayer money and pampering themselves. See, they consider it someone else's money. They can't spend it fast enough.