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Recession to change economic impact of bowl games

December 31, 2008

The rough economy has taken its toll on tourism, so will it reduce the positive economic impact of annual big-money bowl games, including the Super Bowl? One expert, who has studied the revenue generation of the 2008 Super Bowl and several college bowl games, is weighing in with some answers.

“There’s no question the economy’s going to affect bowls,” says Ray Artigue, executive director of the MBA sports business specialization at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business. “Usually when fans take a trip to a bowl location, they come early, stay late, visit local tourist attractions, and elongate their spending. This year, they may not stay as long or spend as much.”

According to a study done by the W. P. Carey School of Business, the total economic impact of the 2008 Super Bowl in the Phoenix area was $500.6 million. The breakdown of the spending was an average of about $617 per person for each of the average 3.9 days they stayed in Arizona. That includes hotel rooms, dining and spending on recreation, such as shopping, buying souvenirs and golfing.

Similar studies on Phoenix-area sports events also show major economic impacts: $228 million total from the 2003 Fiesta and Insight Bowls, and $315 million total from the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, Fiesta Bowl and Insight Bowl.

Artigue explains he still fully expects fans to pack into the games for the sports experience. He also expects many souvenirs will still sell because of the “one-time-only,” historic value of getting official merchandise showing a specific date and opponent. However, he believes the fans will participate “more prudently,” spending less money on the souvenirs, eating meals outside the stadium, and taking other cost-cutting measures. He expects the corporate sector to show even more of an impact.

“Companies are not entertaining clients and conducting business development at sports venues the way they used to,” says Artigue. “It’s hard to set up a party tent or pay for a stadium suite when stock prices are off and layoffs are happening. Even small businesses have an issue when they’ve just laid off several people and then co-workers see their company entertaining lavishly.”

Still, don’t expect to notice any publicized difference when it comes to the economic impact of Super Bowl XLIII. Artigue emphasizes how the big game always sells out both tickets and ads at a premium. He says it just won’t be as easy as it once was to get that all done behind the scenes.