Friday, January 1, 2010

Play-To-Host: A New System For Selecting Super Bowl Host Cities

In a few weeks, thousands of fans and countless media will pack their bags and make their way to Miami for Super Bowl XLIV. Undoubtedly, these fans and media will bring with them excitement and national attention, however, they also bring something much more beneficial to the City of Miami, especially in this economy, money. Yes, we all know that hosting a Super Bowl brings an economic boon for the host city, but in times like these two questions, at least in my mind, arise:

(1) Just how much money will hosting a Super Bowl bring to the host town? ; and (2) How is it fair that although 32 cities across America are home to teams, only a handful routinely get the economic benefit that comes with hosting the Super Bowl?

To answer the first question, according to a 2003 study by Craig A. Depken II and Dennis P. Wilson, the net real impact of hosting a Super Bowl is between $220 million and $350 million. This seems pretty accurate considering that USA Today reported that hosting the Super Bowl XL provided an economic boost of $273.9 million to Detroit. With this in mind, the answer to the second question is that it’s not fair.

Since the inception of the Super Bowl in 1967, the list of hosting cities and frequency is as follows:
Total By City: LA 2; Miami 10 (including 2010); New Orleans 9; Houston 2; Pasadena 5; Pontiac, MI 1; Tampa 4; Stanford, CA 1; San Diego 3; Minneapolis 1; Tempe 1; Atlanta 2; Jacksonville 1; Detroit 1; Glendale, AZ 1.

Total By State: California 11, Florida 15, Louisiana 9, Texas 2, Michigan 2, Minnesota 1, Arizona 2, Georgia 2.

What’s striking about this list is that the cities which have hosted the most frequently are also those cities which annually draw in some of the highest amounts of tourism revenue, even in non-hosting years (Ok, so maybe it’s not so striking, I’m pretty sure we were all aware of this). So, in essence, by awarding hosting duties to these cities, the NFL is making some of the most tourism rich cities richer, while the remaining NFL cities get diddly squat when it comes to the big game. This is particularly upsetting considering the current economic situation ( let’s face it, all cities could use some money) and the fact that even pre-2008 some NFL cities such as Cleveland and St. Louis were severely depressed.

So what’s the solution, well to me it’s obvious: spread the wealth. More specifically, I propose that the NFL adopt a rule that the winner of the Super Bowl gets the option to host the Super Bowl 5 years (or whatever period of time the NFL deems is sufficient to give cities time to prepare) later. If that winner’s home city rejects the offer, then the loser of the Super Bowl gets next dibs, if they reject then the option follows in this order: Super Bowl winner, Super Bowl loser, Team which lost to Super Bowl Champion in Conference Championship game, Team which lost to Super Bowl loser in Conference Championship game, Team which lost to the Super Bowl Champion in divisional round prior to Conference Championship, and so forth if it so necessary.

While I devised this new system with the intent of allowing all NFL cities access to the economic wealth associated with hosting a Super Bowl, I believe that this play-to-host system would also bring other benefits:

Good for Fans
The spreading out of the Super Bowl will be better fans because it could make attending a Super Bowl more of a possibility for many people. Unfortunately, the reality of life is that not everyone can afford the already high costs of traveling and staying in California, Florida or Louisiana (which are inflated even more when a Super Bowl is tossed in). However, it may be more affordable for someone who resides in say Philadelphia to attend a Super Bowl hosted in Pittsburgh, New York or Baltimore.

Good for the NFL
In additional to being better for existing fans, the spreading out of Super Bowls will be good for the NFL in either creating new fans or making casual fans more invested in the team. Think about it, when your team is playing for the right to host one of the most economically rewarding games a lot more people in the host city are going to become emotionally invested in the team. The theory of it being better for the NFL and its teams is especially true if the salary cap is busted. Then, I predict cities would be more willing to contribute extra money to payrolls or provide tax break incentives to teams in order to secure a better chance of bringing the Super Bowl to their town.

Now I know what some of you are thinking, you’re thinking that holding the Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium in February in a northern state is a terrible idea for a couple reasons: (1) who would want to attend a Super Bowl in the freezing cold, (2) cold and/or snow would impact the game. However, I don’t completely buy these as reasons sufficient enough to prevent a northern, open stadium Super Bowl from happening.

To begin, in regards to (1), a lot of people would want to attend a Super Bowl regardless of the cold. How do I know this, well, the cold doesn’t stop thousands of individuals from filling AFC and NFC Championship games and playoffs held just weeks before the Super Bowl takes place.

With respect to (2), to use the argument that we wouldn’t want adverse weather to determine the outcome of the Super Bowl is a bit ridiculous considering we have no problem with allowing the same adverse weather conditions t0 effect who will be playing in the Super Bowl during the playoffs and conference championship games. Until at the playoff are held a neutral locations with controlled temperatures, (2) isn’t a strong enough argument.

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