When Super Bowl XLVII is held Feb. 3 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it will be the first time since 2002 that New Orleans has hosted America’s biggest annual sporting event.
Tourism officials across south Louisiana are excited about the return of the big game to the Crescent City and the week-long barrage of events that surround it. And they’re hoping that New Orleans will once again be a regular stop for the Super Bowl. Next month will be the 10th time the game will be played in New Orleans, tying it with Miami as the most frequent host.
“We’re talking about a $432 million economic impact that will be felt by the hotels and restaurants as far west as Lafayette and Lake Charles,” said Mark Romig, chief executive officer of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., which promotes leisure travel in the city. “This is not just in Orleans Parish.”
Baton Rouge’s convention chief said the city hopes to catch spillover from fans who might have difficulty getting flights and hotel rooms in New Orleans for the big game.
When the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams played in Super Bowl XXXVI, the game had a $299 million economic impact, Romig said.
“The game has changed dramatically since 2002,” he said. “The events are much larger.”
“It’s a lot bigger,” agreed Alfred Groos, president and general manager of the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street, who was in the business at the time of the last big game. “Even though you didn’t think the Super Bowl could be bigger, it’s getting bigger.”
Groos noted the event is using the Superdome, the convention center for the NFL Experience and Woldenberg Park for “Superbowl Boulevard.”
New Orleans has hosted a number of major sporting events post-Katrina: the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 2012, a couple of BCS National Championship Games and the NBA All-Star Game in 2008. But those events are dwarfed by the Super Bowl.
In early 2012, the Super-dome was the site of the Sugar Bowl game between Michigan and Virginia Tech, while less than a week later LSU faced Alabama in the BCS Championship Game. Romig says those two games, which featured colleges with large fan bases, had an economic impact of $400 million.
But the economic impact of the Super Bowl may be less than advertised, said Patrick Rishe, who heads a sports consulting firm and is an economics professor at Webster University in St. Louis. Rishe said cities are prone to inflating estimates of how much money will be spent on the game.
Rishe said the key is if cities are determining how much money is being spent on the Super Bowl by locals and tourists and how much money is staying in the area and what is “leaking out.”
“If you spend money at a hotel or a restaurant chain that isn’t headquartered in New Orleans, the money leaks out,” Rishe said. “Some of that money goes back to corporate.”
Rishe said he’s done studies that show for every $100 spent, $50 to $70 remains in a city, while $30 to $50 leaks out.
Big events like the Super Bowl cause residents to act as tourists in their own town. Instead of going out to dinner or buying a new gadget, some New Orleans residents may spend that money on events connected to the game.
“There’s a big difference between the amount of spending done by non-locals and how much is retained,” Rishe said.
Rishe did studies connected with Super Bowl XL, held in Detroit in 2006, and Super Bowl XLV, held in Arlington, Texas, in 2011. He found that spending by non-locals was in the mid-$200 million range, while the amount of money that was retained as income by households and local businesses was in the mid-$100 million range.
But for the hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, the dollars coming in are real nontheless. Groos, of the Royal Sonesta, said 90 percent of the rooms in the city are committed to the NFL, as is typically the case. A city bidding to host a Super Bowl can’t even get its hat in the ring unless it can make that commitment.
“It’s an NFL-dominated event,” Groos said. “They, for the most part, have control over who gets what blocks of rooms. Hotels have very few rooms for corporate customers and VIPs ….”
Erica Papillion, director of communications for the Louisiana Restaurant Association, said the industry stands to benefit greatly from the influx.
“It’s not just for regular diners,” she said. “They’re getting a lot of special events, particularly within walking distance to the Superdome.”
“It’s a huge deal for restaurants,” she said. “There are not going to be many empty seats.”
Walk Ons, the restaurant and bar that began in Baton Rouge near Tiger Stadium and then opened another location near the Superdome, will have an outdoor tent effectively serving as a second operation, said Erin Hains, director of marketing for Last In Concepts. There, Walk Ons will sell $100 tickets guests can put toward food and drink purchases the day before the game, when it tries to break the world record for the largest seafood boil.
To prepare for the game, New Orleans has spent more than $1 billion on infrastructure improvements, including renovations to Louis Armstrong International Airport, enhancements to the Superdome and a new streetcar line on Loyola Avenue.
“There has been a major economic boom in the preparation for this, but we’re near the goal line,” Romig said. “The eyes of the world will be on this.”
“It’s just tremendous exposure, great publicity for us,” said Russell Miller, general manager of the Ritz Carlton New Orleans. “We’ll have coverage from all over the world.”
Miller said the New Orleans hospitality industry relishes the opportunity to show the world what it is about, building lasting business relationships along the way.
“There’s going to be a ripple effect through the all the hotels and other businesses locally,” he said.
That’s essentially what happened with Walk Ons.
Hains said ESPN had booked its New Orleans location for the BCS Championship game last year, and having had a good experience, did so again for the day of the Super Bowl this year.
New Orleans officials plan to promote three themes during the Super Bowl week, Romig said: the city and Louisiana are great places to live and work; New Orleans is a great place to visit; and the city should host the Super Bowl again.
Groos said he has always heard that when the Super Bowl is in New Orleans, it’s even bigger than normal because of the climate, the city’s walkability and its food and entertainment options, among others.
“The Super Bowl is always big, but when it’s in New Orleans, there’s that much more demand.”
Plus, practice makes perfect.
“We do big events. We do them often. Each one has their own flavor, but they have similarities,” Groos said. “And we’re very good at it because we do it all the time. It’s part of the fabric of the city.”
On the Northshore, officials are hoping the game leads to long-term economic impacts.
Jason Ball, director of the Hammond Regional Airport, said he has met with local economic development groups to develop a marketing plan about the area. “We want to give the CEOs who come in for the game a little information about what we have to offer,” Ball said. “We hope something may bring them back to this area for business or tourism.”
Ball has met with officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Business Aviation Administration to discuss increased airport traffic at Hammond Regional because of the Super Bowl. Federal aviation officials want the airport to be prepared to provide parking for up to 100 Gulfstream IV jets.
“Every day we get a couple of business jets, but they’re usually at the airport for just a few hours,” Ball said.
Baton Rouge tourism officials have a different goal for the Super Bowl. They want the city to be the destination for the average football fans who are going to the game.
Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, said the Super Bowl matchup won’t be determined until two weeks before the game. So fans who are lucky enough to get tickets to the game may have a hard time finding flights to New Orleans or available hotel rooms.
“The corporate sponsors and all of the businesses get first run of the rooms and flights,” Arrigo said.
The Baton Rouge convention and visitors bureau plans to run public relations and advertising campaigns in the two cities that are home to the Super Bowl teams, promoting the availability of hotel rooms in the Capital Region and the accessibility for aircraft. Arrigo said the CVB has budgeted about $40,000 for the campaign, the money is coming from the BP settlement.
The CVB will also hold events in North Boulevard Town Square for Super Bowl visitors, beginning Feb. 1. Some details are still being worked out, but there will be a tailgate party with local food trucks, live music and Mardi Gras parades from the Krewes of Artemis, Mystique and Orion. Arrigo notes while New Orleans is rescheduling Mardi Gras parades that would normally run during Super Bowl week, the Baton Rouge krewes will march as scheduled.
“Our perfect customer is the guy who gets two tickets and drives in from Houston with his son and can’t stay in New Orleans,” Arrigo said. “Instead, he stays in Baton Rouge and enjoys what we have here.”