Sun, Jan 25, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Despite economy, Super Bowl won’t lose its luster

AP , TAMPA, FLORIDA

The sagging US economy has put a hit on plans for Sunday’s Super Bowl, not that visitors to Tampa for the game and hundreds of millions watching on TV will be able to tell the difference.

The bacchanalian bash in honor of American football will still roll for the TV cameras with all of its over-the-top glitz. Yet there are signs — fewer and smaller parties, maybe not quite so many reporters and traveling fans — that the shine will be a little less bright this year.

The game will still be sold out. The town will be crawling with party-hopping celebrities. Hotels will be busy, fans wearing Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals gear will be ubiquitous on the streets, and hundreds of media members will descend to cover the event, which will still likely be the nation’s most-watched TV broadcast this year.

The Super Bowl Host Committee had to lower its fundraising goal by US$1 million. Corporations that are sponsoring the game are sending fewer bigwigs to town. A couple of the big Super Bowl parties and other events were bagged, others are downsizing, and some media companies — especially hard hit by the downturn and the changing habits of news consumers — are sending fewer scribes to cover the game.

The committee lowered its local fundraising expectation from US$8 million to US$7 million after sponsorships lagged, but it will still meet its financial obligations to the NFL, Sigmon said. The committee started early and raised a lot of the money before the economy took a hard turn in late summer, he said.

The auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicted the economy would be a factor on game week, resulting in “fewer visitors and media, a shorter average length-of-stay per visitor, and less spending in the hospitality and related industries throughout the Tampa Bay area.”

The projected US$150 million in direct spending tied to the game will be about 20 percent off what it would have been if the economy were stronger, the company said in a report this week.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league tried not to spare any expense for this year’s event, adding that “we’re bullish on the Super Bowl and what it means to America.”

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