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Professor says Super Bowl may not be quite the economic touchdown officials claim it to be

February 2, 2017

One of the biggest events in the world of sports will take place this Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots match up in Super Bowl LI. And, while the National Football League’s biggest game is big business, a Troy University professor believes league officials could be guilty of piling on when it comes to their economic impact estimates.

Dr. Anthony Dixon, an associate professor in the School of Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management, said the NFL estimates the Super Bowl to have a $300 to $500 million impact on the economy of the host city. This year’s game will be played in Houston’s NRG Stadium with its seating capacity of nearly 72,000.

“Academic researchers have done studies that indicate the economic impact is lower than what the NFL estimates,” Dr. Dixon said. “It certainly is new money coming into the community over the course of a few days, but you also have people who live in the host city that will leave during this time because they don’t want to deal with the headaches presented by hosting such an event. So while new money is coming in, there is also some money leaking out of the community at the same time.”

While other special events are held in conjunction with the Super Bowl, Dr. Dixon said professional stadiums generally seat in the neighborhood of 80,000 fans.

“If every fan who attends the game spent $400 a day during their stay, you are probably looking more in the range of $100 million in actual spending,” Dr. Dixon said.

Another aspect that isn’t often taken into account is the investment necessary to even be considered to host a Super Bowl. Dr. Dixon said the league has used the game as leverage to improve facilities in cities such as Miami.

Miami holds the distinction, along with New Orleans, of hosting the most Super Bowls with 10 each. The city’s last was Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.

“The NFL told Miami they would never host another Super Bowl unless they upgraded the stadium,” Dr. Dixon said. “They just went through massive renovations.”

Now known as Hard Rock Stadium, the new facility was completed last fall as is home to the University of Miami Hurricanes football program, the Capital One Orange Bowl and the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. The renovations carried with them a price tag of approximately $425 million.

While one can quibble about the true economic impact of the big game versus the investment necessary to host it, Dr. Dixon does believe the game has a huge social impact. The game will serve as the catalyst for “Super Bowl parties” throughout the country and even beyond U.S. borders. Sunday’s game will be broadcast in seven languages and available in 170 countries and territories, according to NFL.com. And, whether it’s the football game, the glitzy halftime show or the oft-hyped commercials that is the talk of Super Bowl parties, the social aspect of the game cannot be taken lightly.

“The Super Bowl, and sports in general, tends to bring people together, even if it is just those who are involved for the social interaction,” Dr. Dixon said. “Sports tears down barriers. People tend to gather together to watch and talk about the game and the teams involved rather than factors that make them different from one another.”