New Orleans — Most people seem to agree about one thing in regard to Super Bowl XLVII: It was a successful event that presented the city in a positive light to the rest of the world. What is a little more open to debate, though, is just what effect the game and its auxiliary events had on the local economy.
The Super Bowl Host Committee has said it expects the game will have a $434 million impact on the city. That figure, though, isn’t the net revenue that local and state governments will deposit into their treasuries, experts argue, and many local businesses said they had disappointing or slower business than expected.
Pam Doerr runs a small shop on St. Louis Street in the French Quarter that sells small jewelry items and art. She said she made two sales between Thursday and Saturday. Both of those customers were locals, she said.
“The people were nice, the crowds were here, but they just didn’t spend,” she said. “I was very disappointed.”
There is no question the crowds were here. The Quarter looked like the city was celebrating Mardi Gras Day all weekend. And tourism officials said there were no hotel rooms available in the city.
“We are pulling final numbers today, but it’s safe to say hotels were at 100 percent (occupancy) for the Super Bowl weekend,” Kelly Schulz, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said in an email.
And if anyone had fears that the power outage in the Superdome during the game would hurt the city’s chances for hosting again, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid them to rest Monday. “This will not affect our view about the success of the game here in New Orleans, he said. “We know that they have an interest in future Super Bowls. I fully expect we’ll be back here for Super Bowls. We want to be back here.”
Despite the number of people in town for this Super Bowl, Bob Clift, an artist who sells charcoal and pastel paintings on Jackson Square, the epicenter of much of the Super Bowl activity, on Monday said that the last time he made a sale was Jan. 27. The crowd here for the game wasn’t interested in his or his counterparts’ merchandise, he said.
“I heard it was supposed to be a big boost for the economy, but it’s the kind of thing we do where people don’t stop and look,” Clift said. “It’s almost like you have to hit them over the head to get their attention.”
Other shop owners in the Quarter also said they had lackluster sales that were far below what they expected and what they’ve experienced with previous Super Bowls.
Michael Regua, executive chef of Antoine’s for 36 years, said that previous Super Bowls have seen a surge of business at the restaurant during the week leading up to the game. This year things were slow until Friday, he said.
“A lot of people had parties and other functions to go to” before the weekend, said Wendy Chatelain, Antoine’s director of sales and marketing.
“I’m not going to say it was disappointing. But we geared up to do more, and it seems everyone got to the city on Friday,” Regua said. “We hoped to have the whole week.”
Michael Pearson, a sports marketing professor at Loyola University’s Joseph A. Butt College of Business, said he’s always skeptical about the expected economic impact that host cities say they will receive from large sporting events.
Much of the money that flows into the game, some economists argue, flows out of the host city and back to the headquarters of those companies hired to help put on what has become a days-long production.
While the final tally of what the city earned thanks to the game is still being compiled, Pearson said he wouldn’t be surprised if the city broke even when considering other costs that went into hosting it, such as overtime paid to public safety officials.
“I think that if an accountant had to go in and really look at this, it would be a wash,” he said.
Other economists, however, have been a little more generous in their projections, saying the game can actually infuse tens of millions of dollars into the local economy of the city that hosts the game.
One aspect that really can not be quantified, though, is the publicity that comes from hosting the Super Bowl.
All week, public officials have taken the opportunity to share the story of New Orleans’ post-Katrina recovery with the thousands of visiting members of the media here to cover the game. Mayor Mitch Landrieu spent much of the week speaking with visiting media, touting changes that have happened in the areas of education and crime, for example, while economic development officials talked up what they describe as a new business climate in town.
Jay Cicero, executive director of the Super Bowl Host Committee, on Sunday said that while the dollars and cents are important, the messages broadcast and printed across the globe the last several days could be what matters most.
“More importantly, 5,204 members of the media were here all week writing incredibly positive stories about our great city. You really can’t put a value on that,” he said on Sunday during a ceremony to hand off Super Bowl responsibilities to New York and New Jersey in preparation of next year’s game.
Pearson, the Loyola professor, agreed: “It’s valuable to the city as far as showing the world again we can do big-time events,” he said. “I don’t think anyone left town with negative feelings.”
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