Remember Super Bowl 50? The world's best-marketed sporting event — the few hours of football squeezed around the most expensive commercial messaging in America — brought 1.1 million strangers to San Francisco, shut downtown streets for about a month, and led to an awful lot of kvetching.
The Super Bowl also brought in some money to the city and county of San Francisco: after hotel and sales taxes were computed, and after the cost to police, traffic managers, and other city services were deducted, the Super Bowl netted us $792,000, to be exact, according to a City Controller report released today.
That's good news, in a way — at least the city didn't lose money. But that's also not exactly a financial windfall — and it would appear to be well below the promises that the city would “reap millions of dollars” made by the Super Bowl Host Committee as recently as January.
The game's critics on the Board of Supervisors, at least, are leaping upon this as a prime “I told you so” moment.
[jump] Recall, if you will, that San Francisco agreed to host the game on nothing more than a handshake deal that included no guarantees of reimbursement from the National Football League. (Santa Clara, which actually hosted the big game at Levi's Stadium, had a contract that guaranteed compensation from the NFL.) At the time, this was touted as a preferable arrangement — this meant that the city would make money.
The game did bring in hotel and sales tax revenue, according to the Controller: $550,000 in sales taxes and $6.1 million in hotel taxes (hotels enjoyed an 84 to 90 percent occupancy rate as the big game drew near, compared to a 60 to 70 percent occupancy rate the week before). At least part of this revenue came directly from the NFL, which spent $5.5 million in town during the few weeks it was in town.
But the expenses. Police spent $4 million defending the Super Bowl from things like photographers, clocking an eye-popping 50,158 overtime hours for police — and Muni spent another $2.5 million clearing streets and redirecting traffic.
And that may not tell the whole story. Some city departments reported spending the same amount during the Super Bowl that they normally do — which begs the question of where resources were allocated during that time: in neighborhoods where people who live in San Francisco, you know, live — or downtown, where the NFL was having a massive city-promoted “civic celebration”?
“The most optimistic view possible is that we rented out San Francisco for a week to make about $800,000, while the corporation clogging our streets and hurting local small businesses made 775 times that,” said Supervisor Jane Kim, one of the big game's big critics on the Board of Supervisors, in a statement. “Moving forward, we need to do a much better job of negotiating on behalf of the taxpayers of San Francisco.”