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Answer Man: Putting the Super Bowl LII to rest

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Answer Man — after all is said and done, how did the state of Minnesota do, money-wise, the week leading into the Super Bowl and Super Bowl Sunday? — Rah Rah

It isn't all said and done yet — in fact, it's never all said and done in the world of sports economics, where the final score is never as crisp and concise as the one on the athletic field.

First, let's acknowledge that by any measure, Minnesota's Super Bowl LII was a big deal. For one golden week, our fair, frigid state was the center of the sports universe. Some 1 million people, including 125,000 out-of-towners, were expected to attend the 10 days of Super Bowl-related events. Downtown Minneapolis hummed for a solid week. Restaurants and hotels were jammed. This was the land of 10,000 ceaselessly spinning cash registers.

It's easy to imagine that the economic lift for Minnesota in winter would be greater, proportionally, than, say, Miami or Phoenix. Where would you rather vacation in January/February?

And yet, the numbers beckon. Here's a start: Rockport Analytics, the economic research firm hired by the Twin Cities Super Bowl Host Committee in 2016 to forecast the financial benefit from the 10-day period culminating in the Super Bowl, estimated $407 million in new spending related to the sports event.


That included, for example, $71 million on hotels, $63 million on restaurants and bars, $28 million on rental cars, $27 million on entertainment, and $29 million in state and local taxes, to name a few of the big categories. ( I'll link to the report online so you can read it yourself .)

In a normal January/February, the Twin Cities has about $68 million of spending in those categories, Rockport concluded, so the net impact would be some $338 million.

Let's compare that to last year's Super Bowl. The economic impact from Super Bowl LI, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston, was estimated (again by Rockport) to be $347 million. ( If you're reading this online, you'll find the link to that report, too .)

Other Super Bowls? Phoenix (2015): $719 million. New York (2014): $600 million. New Orleans (2013): $480 million. Indianapolis (2012): $324 million.

Though those numbers are presented with a certain air of authority, there is, actually, significant doubt among economists as to their validity. One voice of dissent is Victor Matheson , a sports economist at College of the Holy Cross (he received his doctorate degree from the University of Minnesota), who places the net economic impact of Super Bowls more generally in the $30 million to $130 million range, and who said Rockport's estimate of the impact of this year's Super Bowl was at least $200 million high. See his 2010 study ( again, linked from this column online ) for more details on his methodology than I can reasonably provide here.

I'm not specially equipped to assess Matheson's analysis vs. Rockport's, but my gut puts me toward Matheson, for the simple reason that his bread's not being buttered by people who have a stake in the higher numbers.

Now, we also cannot forget the cost side of the ledger. U.S. Bank Stadium was built at a cost of about $1.1 billion, funded in no small part by state taxpayers ($348 million) and Minneapolis ($150 million). Minneapolis and surrounding communities bore a significant public cost these past few weeks and months — $5 million to $6 million, by various estimates. Some of those costs were to be covered by the NFL … and a great many weren't, at least not according to a 153-page bid specification document issued by the NFL to candidate host cities for Super Bowl LII in 2013.

That document ( again, I'll link to it online ) spells out in some detail the likely obligations Minneapolis was to face, including providing free parking and free hotel rooms to the NFL, free extra police, free promotional space and free venues for a variety of activities. Some of those obligations came to be, and some didn't — the exact nature of the final agreement is under wraps, so it's not possible right now to calculate all the city's costs. But according to some reports, the NFL pledged to pay its attributable costs related to public works, added police and security. How much? Who knows.


Sorry that's not the final score you may be looking for, but on one hand it seems very clear — Super Bowl LII didn't put Minnesota in the black vis a vis the stadium, though it gave the economy a not-unwelcome jolt.

On the other hand, Minnesota got to be in on the Super Bowl fun last week (not as much fun as Buffalo Right 7 Heaven , but still), and it's hard to put a price on that.

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