During the Super Bowl, demand for Atlanta’s digital infrastructure will peak. Expecting a record volume of texts, calls, and assorted social media that will come from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the major carriers have been boosting their capacity. They’ve added temporary COWS (cell on wheels), temporary COLTS (cell on light trucks), and some permanent structures as well.
Verizon said its spending for today’s game was $97 million while AT&T’s number was $43 million.
So yes, we do have some relatively precise spending totals. But still, once we try to combine the data and estimate the economic benefit of the Super Bowl, there is little agreement.
Super Bowl Spending
We can start with the overnight accommodations. Months ago, a representative from Atlanta’s Convention and Visitors Bureau said all hotel rooms had been committed. In addition, we have local residents offering their homes through Airbnb and Vacation Rentals. The AJC reports that one visitor is paying $5775 per night for a 10-bedroom house.
Meanwhile businesses ranging from restaurants to sign makers have seen a boost. Local contractors need to build and then tear down broadcast booths, tents, and temporary walls. Wing Zone, an Atlanta based restaurant chain expects five times its normal business. Although they always are busy during the Super Bowl, this year the celebrating started yesterday and Friday with extra take-out calls.
However, we cannot say that all of this spending is a “plus.” The problem is what would have been. The conventions that might have booked Atlanta switched to another city. We have the people who would have gone to a movie theater or to a restaurant but instead stayed home. In addition, there is always some “leakage.” Dollars received by a national chain do not necessarily wind up in Atlanta.
Super Bowl Costs
Completed in 2017, the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium included a whopping $700 million from tax payers. There was a $10 million tax exemption on game tickets in the package from the Host Committee. They also said the NFL could use a theater, three golf courses, and get thousands of parking spaces. The security they guaranteed required overtime shifts for law enforcement, a security perimeter, and traffic diversion.
The Economic Benefit of Super Bowl LIII
With money pouring in and leaving, no one agrees how much Atlanta will benefit. You can see that the estimates range from $400,000,000 to $0:
Our Bottom Line: Confirmation Bias
Many of us want the Super Bowl to be a financial success. When we want something to be true, we cherry pick the facts that prove we are right. Called confirmation bias, concluding that the Super Bowl generates a financial bonanza validates the host committee’s projections. And it makes most of us feel good.
In fact, happiness could be the one sure thing a Super Bowl will create for a host city. And happiness is priceless.
My sources and more: The AJC (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) was the perfect starting point for Super Bowl spending facts. They also had rather interesting detail on the city’s boost in cell capacity. From there, I returned to Walter Matheson’s paper and this econlife post.
Please note that Our Bottom Line was published in a past econlife post.