Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Another Super Bowl?!? Don't Buy the Spin

To the surprise of exactly no one, word began to get around on Tuesday that Indianapolis would be submitting a bid to host another Super Bowl.  Most reports suggested that the bid would be for Super Bowl LII in 2018.

During and after the completion of the Super Bowl festivities this year, it was a common to hear visitors review the experience as one of the best jobs hosting a Super Bowl ever.  Maybe even the best.  Such reviews are especially important since so many people, especially sports writers across the nation, were critical of the decision to choose Indianapolis in the first place.

Immediately after the Super Bowl was over, everyone knew that Indy would be seeking Round Two.  It's almost a surprise that it took this long.  The visitors loved it and the citizens of Indianapolis and Central Indiana had a great time and have been begging for more.

This morning, the Star reports that mayor Ballard and Governor Daniels announced that direct spending as a result of the Super Bowl was $152 million.  Although some spending projections were as high as $200 million, the numbers released today were higher than the more common $150 million projections that seem to be the only ones currently remembered.

But today's numbers are suspect.  As Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana points out, hotel and sales tax revenue don't seem to match up with the $152 million dollar story.  But even if the revenue numbers are correct, that's only part of what went on.

Today's numbers fail to take into account the grand expenses involved.  There is no mention at all of the two reports coming out of the CIB that says that organization lost a million dollars from the hosting duties.  There's barely a mention of the multi-million dollar Georgia Street project; a project which was supposed to have long-term benefits as a pedestrian mall, but has recently left businesses complaining it is often barren.

And Welsh is the only person currently talking about the troubles that businesses not located in the central downtown area faced.  Based on the hype, many restaurants and bars spent tens of thousands of dollars to stock up on food and alcohol to prepare for an onslaught of business that never came. 

For corporate restaurants this may not have been an enormous problem.  For "Mom & Pop" establishments, though, tying up that kind of cash in unused stock, much of it perishable, can be crippling.  It forces them to change their business model for the rest of the year and can risk putting them out of business.

So, as Indianapolis starts building excitement about the possibility of hosting another Big Game, remember that things from the last one may not have turned out as great as it seems.  I'm not saying we shouldn't want to host another one.  The last one WAS a great time and WAS great for the morale of the City.  We should demand more transparency this time around, though.  And we should make sure that we don't give the farm away to the NFL for the chance to host.

Let's just make sure we know what's going on before we put our arms around the idea of another Super Bowl and hug tight.


  1. I thought it was April Fool's Day when I read that editorial. The saving grace is that the NFL owners HATE cold-weather Super Bowls. The vote to hold the last one in Indy was 17-15.

  2. I don't see any surprises here. It was known immediately that the city would lose money on hosting the super bowl. There is no direct return on investment in security and public servant cost. That wasn't the point of hosting the event.
    And I'm not sure how sympathetic I can be for the supposed "Mom and Pop" shops that suffered. Indianapolis hosts the two largest attended events in America every single year. These shops should have a good feel for how their business will suffer or succeed during these events and be able to relate it to a Super Bowl that is 1/5th that size.

  3. Anonymous, neighborhood organizations and representatives of the city and NFL set up events and did promotions meant to drive people to places outside of the immmediete downtown area. These businesses didn't haphazardly just guess, they were told by people knowledgable of the event that there would be additional traffic. Considering that at least one of the two sporting events Indy holds is the 500, which typically doesn't overcrowd restaurants and bars outside of the Speedway and west side of Indy, these restaurants have no experience running in these types of events.

  4. The city did not know they would lose money on the Super Bowl. Yes, there were costs such as security that have no direct return. This is no different than any major event. The return on is what is supposed to pay for that.

    As far as the Mom & Pop shops are concerned, Indy Student pretty much summed it up.

  5. Actually, they originally said the Super Bowl wouldn't cost taxpayers any money at all. Of course that was a lie.

  6. The CIB, WSJ, and the venerable Mr. Ogden himself all predicted the loss. To say that the city did not know is a bit unbelievable. Perhaps *pretended* not to know?
    And for all of us who try to get a hotel room in the metro area for the 500, we know that it is nearly impossible, so to say that all the money is kept to the west side is a weak position.
    For those businesses who were told by "knowledgeable" people that there would be increased traffic and believed, shame. No such thing as knowledgeable in planning a one-off event. It's Indy... In February. Why would a visitor want to leave the renovated downtown area to go visit one of the Super Celebration Sites in Lafayette, Richmond, or Muncie? And what greenhorn business owner would believe it?

    1. I'm not talking about businesses in Lafayette, Richmond and Muncie not getting the predicted boost. I'm talking about downtown businesses that weren't in the center of activity. I'm talking about businesses just off of 465 that are surrounded by hotels that were packed, but saw little impact from those customers, despite their proximity.

    2. As someone who works at a hotel, I can tell you a lot of those guests in the 500 come in from out of town for the 500, for the night before the race, check out the day of, and then they're off. They might grab a bite to eat on their way to and/or from the track. That's about it. It is a great day for the hospitality industry because we get to jack up the rates a lot. Might be good for the hotels that have tipped based employees with in-hotel restaurants, bell hops, etc... But beyond that, there isn't a massive preparation for the entire city when the 500 is helpd. Broad Ripple, Fountain Square, Mass Ave, etc... aren't any more or less busy than usual on 500 days.

      Go talk to the businesses that are in Fountain Square and Broad Ripple, all of which had their neighborhood organizations, city officials, and NFL officials pushing big events and big planning, to be fully staffed and fully stocked. There were even transit options to get to those areas, but weren't utilitzed by most people. The Star even ran a few articles about how the Super Bowl bump didn't hit Broad Ripple, and had some BRVA officials lamenting about how if the city ever holds another Super Bowl again, they'll be a lot more cautious in advising the businesses they represent.