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Page added on February 16, 2012
The official mourning period is now over, and I’m once again able to discuss the Super Bowl in somewhat dispassionate terms (%^&$*$ Eli Manning! Sorry….)
What if there was no Super Bowl game?
In a January article entitled “Super Bowl 2012: Indianapolis Invites Visitors for Weeklong Celebration” by Mark Johanson, city officials were said to be expecting 150,000 visitors during Super Bowl weekend (nearly 70,000 of whom would attend the game itself). Another source suggested the number was more likely in excess of a million….
In Diana Lind’s piece (“The Economic Mixed Bag That is the Super Bowl“), she reported that while the National Football League claims that the host city for the Super Bowl receives revenues totaling anywhere from $300 to $500 million, Indianapolis was expecting less than half of that lofty amount ($150 million was the stated estimate, and the calculations for that were questioned as being too optimistic and inaccurate as well, as Lind noted).
Having been lucky enough to attend a Super Bowl several years ago (much happier memory—the Patriots won that one!), I can personally attest to the fact that it is indeed quite the spectacle. The Colts home city appears to have left no stone unturned in its efforts to present itself in the best possible light while offering fans and visitors the full scope of Super Bowl pageantry.
The Johanson piece quoted a Convention & Visitors Association official as promising a complete transformation of the downtown area, filled with “food carts, vendors, three stages, warming stations, food and beverage” with the intent of re-making that part of Indianapolis into an Olympic Village. And for those not satisfied with that (?), Johanson reported that there would also be “interactive games, concert stages, bars and restaurants, and a so-called ‘Tailgate Town,’” together with “four zip lines” enabling users to “fly over the Super Bowl Village.” Not to be outdone, the “NFL Experience” located at the Convention Center serves as the sport’s interactive theme park with all the bells and whistles one might expect: “participatory games, displays, entertainment attractions, kid’s football clinics, free autograph sessions, and the largest football memorabilia show ever staged.”
I am not nearly versed enough in the intricacies of planning such an event, but it stands to reason that a lot of time, effort, equipment, personnel, machinery, and transportation is needed to turn an American city into the center of the pro football universe (and for that matter, the entertainment one as well, given that the game itself drew more than 117 million viewers—a new television-viewing record, topping the 2011 Super Bowl audience.)
Granted, the Super Bowl is not your average sporting event (not with secondary market ticket prices starting in excess of $2000 per, and “a field-level luxury suite with a capacity of 35 people can be yours for $650,000!” as noted in a Huffington Post article by Andrew Brandt). The “normal” ticket-purchasing fan is not the typical attendee at the Super Bowl, and the marketing aspects attending the event are far from routine, given that it is the biggest event of the year for most advertisers.
Brandt’s article went on to report that NBC received more than $250 million just from TV advertising, and (citing other sources, including this one) that “5 million people are projected to buy new televisions in preparation for the game, and fans are expected to spend $11 billion on Super Bowl-related purchases (including the consumption of 1.25 billion chicken wings).” That’s a lot of grocery stores, caterers, restaurants, sporting goods stores, electronics stores, party-favor suppliers, etc., etc., reaping tangential benefits. (Wikipedia reports it’s the second-largest day for food consumption in America; Thanksgiving is first.) Brandt also pointed out that the city’s 6000-plus hotel rooms were all sold out (at inflated rates, no doubt), leaving many visitors obliged to stay at facilities nearly an hour away (also at exorbitantly higher rates.)
That’s a lot of traveling (personal and commercial), together with a lot of supplying and delivering. (Johnson’s article reported that “Over 1,000 private planes are expected on the ground during the weekend ushering in countless celebrities.”)
John Russell and Jon Murray wrote a separate article at the indystar.com website that one national restaurant chain in particular drew more than 1200 people to its facility in Indianapolis over Super Bowl weekend, more than double its usual amount. Obviously merchants and retailers expect/hope to reap secondary benefits from consumers who leave with favorable impressions of the service or product and might thus frequent those same commercial establishments in other locations. Certainly the host city itself likewise expects/hopes to attract additional tourists and convention business from the favorable reviews.
However, the Russell/Murray piece also noted that when all relevant revenues (more than $7 million, including several million dollars from the NFL along with hotel and restaurant taxes, etc.) and expenses (labor, insurance, utilities, personnel, security, etc.) are tabulated, the city may be looking at shortfalls of anywhere from $450,000 to nearly $900,000. Not pocket change in this economy….
So I’ll ask again, what if there was no Super Bowl game?
Nearly two years ago, I wrote my first piece about the impact of declining oil/gas supply (i.e. Peak Oil) as it relates to sports and sports travel. In that post, I offered these observations:
How do teams (high school, college, the pros) deal with travel issues and schedules when gas is much too expensive to enable teams to transport their players even short distances, or when air travel is severely curtailed and wildly expensive because not enough jet fuel is being processed to meet demand (and airports are shuttered because air travel has diminished markedly), or when the fans cannot afford to put the gasoline in their vehicles that in the past allowed them to attend the games without a second thought?
What happens when half, or a third, or one-tenth the number of fans can afford to attend games because budgeting all that money to drive to an in- or out-of-state stadium no longer makes financial sense? Pure supply and demand: when demand continues and supply is reduced, prices go up. Decisions are then made about where to allocate funds. Does a trip across the state to attend a Red Sox game make more sense than paying for your children’s basic needs for the next few months?
Where will the revenue to pay players come from when the majority of fans are no longer traveling to see the games either because limited gas supplies are now being allocated or it’s simply become too expensive for “frivolous” trips? How do owners continue to fund their vast operations (office staff, marketing, scouting staffs, minor leagues, utility services for the stadiums and training facilities, and on and on it goes)? What happens to the vendors and other suppliers when the majority of fans just stop attending … permanently?
What happens when the mind-boggling efforts in planning, preparing, transporting, supplying, delivering, etc., etc. needed to stage this incredible event by countless thousands of individuals and merchants and organizations and government officials are simply no longer feasible because every single entity up and down the supply and service chain is faced with the reality of insufficient availability of “affordable”, quality, energy supply to make this extravaganza happen?
How many economic dominoes tumble as a result? How many businesses lose out? How many employees?
I’m not anticipating that the NFL will cease production of the Super Bowl anytime in the near future, but the reality of Peak Oil will affect this event and this organization just as it will every other commercial enterprise. It will take an incredible amount of planning and thought to figure out an appropriate Plan B just for this one event … how much more planning and thought will be needed for everything else?