One of the biggest attractions for hosting the Super Bowl, arguably the most iconic U.S. sporting event, is the myriad of promised economic benefits for the city and region.
The benefits are not only generated by the number of visitors at hotels, restaurants, sports bars or shops, but also includes an exclusive marketing opportunity for the Valley and the state, which could have long-lasting effects such as bringing new businesses or industries to Arizona.
As Arizona prepares to host the Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12, 2023, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale — the West Valley city's third Super Bowl — an even bigger influx of visitors is expected this time around, as well as a significant economic output for the region.
“We certainly feel the level of excitement, the energy, the commitment seems to be greater,” said Jay Parry, the president and CEO of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee. “We’re optimistic at this point that there will be a lot of activity come February.”
Arizona has hosted the Super Bowl multiple times because of its weather, hospitality and tourism industry and a fan-friendly stadium that was built nearly two decades ago.
The previous Super Bowl in Arizona in 2015 generated about $720 million for the state’s economy, lured more than 120,000 visitors and had more than 114 million viewers, the record for the most watched TV broadcast in the nation, according to an Arizona State University study and NBC.
Arizona officials say next year’s game could produce as much or more impact than 2015, and economic experts say the state should expect to see $450 million to $600 million in gross output, which does not include dollars spent by local residents or businesses. The Pro Bowl is also not being held in Arizona in 2023 like it was in 2015 alongside the Super Bowl.
The economic impact numbers are estimates based on Super Bowls held between 2016 and 2020, which each saw around 100,000 visitors and were held pre-Covid-19 pandemic, said Anthony Evans, a staff director and senior researcher at ASU. The boost in visitors could also bring record numbers for the airports and light rail, while average hotel room rates before Covid-19 saw a 200 to 300% increase, he added.
"The visitors stay on average around four nights, media can be up to five nights, and you get increased state and local tax revenue of around $30, $35 million per [Super Bowl]," said Evans, who helped produce the ASU economic impact study for the 2015 Super Bowl and will help conduct a study after next year's game.
The Super Bowl host committee said that from 2014 to 2015, hotel occupancy increased from 61% to 93% in 2015 during the same time, while the average rates of hotel rooms had increased from $117 to $325. In addition, the number of cars rented increased from 4,000 in 2014 to 12,100 in 2015 in Arizona.
How much the region benefits from hosting the game varies depending on the appeal of the host city, who the participating teams are and the types of events, Evans said. The Valley hosted about 200 events for the Super Bowl in 2015. About 1 million people visited Verizon Super Bowl Central in downtown Phoenix and 500,000 went to events in Scottsdale.
Leading up to next year, the Valley has already announced a number of regional events, while pop icon Rihanna is set to headline the Super Bow LVII Halftime Show. The annual WM Phoenix Open golf tournament is being hosted in Scottsdale the same week.
"About three weeks later then we'll end up with the Cactus League [MLB spring training] again," Evans said. "The money will continue to roll in, and sports is a major economic driver for the Valley because of such a great climate."
The influx of direct spending during the week of the Super Bowl is significant, but one of the long-lasting benefits that Arizona looks forward to are investments from new and existing businesses and development, officials say.
In 2015, the Arizona Commerce Authority hosted about 60 companies for the Super Bowl, which it said resulted in about 20 projects in Arizona and five companies that are currently considering making new investments in the state. It hopes to exceed this number next year.
This has also contributed or led to more developers investing in areas such as downtown Phoenix or even defunct Valley malls, said Christine Mackay, the city's economic development director.
"Before the Super Bowl last time, we really struggled to gain the interest of residential developers for downtown Phoenix, they were kind of like, 'Gosh, nobody wants to live in downtown Phoenix,'" she said.
But after the Super Bowl, when everyone saw downtown Phoenix lit up with concerts, lighting, events and programming on TV, Mackay said the development community started to look at the city's downtown area differently. The city's prospect activity also picked up for businesses looking to expand or relocate to Phoenix, she added.
"It's not just downtown Phoenix, it showcased all of Phoenix. Our industrial parks were shown, our skylines were shown, our hiking paths were shown. It really gave Phoenix the chance to truly shine on the national stage," Mackay said.
Devney Preuss, president and CEO of Downtown PHX, said that next year, they also want to use the Super Bowl Central to market and showcase downtown Phoenix as a "forward thinking, technologically-savvy, innovative hub of activity." Preuss said many local business also had record business days for a week in a row and hopes they will see the same results next year.
The estimated benefits for hosting a Super Bowl can far outweigh any financial losses, but it will still cost residents and visitors to support an event of this caliber, especially in the cities holding a majority of the events.
Many cities and state agencies have been working behind the scenes for years to upgrade the Valley's transportation systems such as the light rail, construction in key areas like downtown Phoenix and the stadium itself. Some cities are also anticipating millions in costs for municipal services to support game operations and events.
Glendale, for example, said its budget for the Super Bowl is $3 million for operation expenses, while the city of Phoenix also said it expects to have more than $3 million in primarily public safety costs. Phoenix also collects fees from tourism businesses that are put toward a fund for Super Bowl costs.
The Super Bowl Committee, which is working with more than 30 Arizona partners, is also in the process of fundraising up to $50 million to help with costs like marketing.
“We anticipate more than 5,000 media members coming from around the world to the Super Bowl, so we want to make sure that we are hosting them, getting them the information they need, so again they are telling the fantastic story of our state,” said Parry.
The city of Glendale said it committed to a $1 million Super Bowl Committee sponsorship package to help pay for costs associated with attracting Super Bowls to the region.
“We do this because, at the end of the day, we know there is a tremendous benefit to the region,” Kevin Phelps, Glendale's city manager, said. “The stronger the region is, the stronger the city of Glendale is going to be."
The committee said it also focuses on leaving lasting effects through programs such as the Super Bowl Legacy Grant Program, in which more than $2 million is donated to Arizona nonprofits, and a business connect program, which connects small businesses owned by minorities, women, LGBTQ people and veterans with workshops, networking and contract opportunities.
Some experts say economic forecasts for the Super Bowl are often overinflated, especially for cities that take on large amounts of debt to build or renovate new stadiums in order to attract the Super Bowl.
Although Arizona’s 63,000-seat football stadium was constructed in 2006, the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority said the total outstanding bond debt for State Farm Stadium is $178.9 million, including $12 million for capital improvements. AZSTA owns and operates the stadium.
“Since the inception of AZSTA, we have refinanced bonds multiple times, taking advantage of more favorable market conditions to achieve cash flow savings on debt service — and those savings are then available to be reinvested in the building,” a spokesperson said in an email.
Since 2015, the authority said that the stadium has also undergone approximately $150 million in renovations funded by the Cardinals and AZSTA. Although these renovations were not specifically made for the Super Bowl, the event will benefit from them, AZSTA said.
“These improvements were to maintain a building that hosts 110 events annually and to ensure that the building remains competitive in the evolving mega events industry,” the authority said.
Bloomberg reported in February that AZSTA is also planning to sell $146.3 million in municipal bonds next year. The proceeds are expected to go to refinancing outstanding debt and to improve heating, ventilation and air conditioning and for new furniture, carpets and flooring at State Farm Stadium.
By the numbers:
The economic impact of the 2015 Super Bowl, Pro Bowl and related events on Arizona
The number of visitors to Arizona for Super Bowl weekend in 2015
The number of viewers who tuned at to watch the Super Bowl in 2015
Source: ASU; NBC Sports Group