Public may never know exactly how much the Super Bowl cost, made back

A snowy Super Bowl in downtown Minneapolis
Snow accumulates on the heads of Super Bowl Live attendants on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee promises to study the economic impact of the event and provide answers — but that doesn't mean the public will learn everything about the game's costs and benefits.

Maureen Bausch, an executive board member of the host committee, said the event that stretched more than a week left a legacy across all parts of the state.

"We'll compile all the facts and figures as soon as they are ready, but I know we broke some records, you saw the crowds," Bausch said.

In downtown Minneapolis, sales were mixed but largely positive, said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

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"The hotels of course did extremely well, a lot of traffic up in the skyways, but as others have reported, that didn't necessarily translate to a high level of additional food sales, but maybe some," Cramer said. "Overall, I feel like people are walking away from this feeling like it was a shot in the arm for the core downtown economy."

The Super Bowl Host Committee paid for a 2016 study that estimated that the Super Bowl would draw 125,000 people to the region. The study by Rockport Analytics predicted there would be a net incremental spending of $338 million in the state.

But studies commissioned by host committees may overestimate how much the region will benefit, said Victor Matheson who studies sports economics at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. He said academic studies are more realistic.


"Those people who have gone back and done that hard work usually find an economic impact somewhere between $30 to $130 million," Matheson said. "That's definitely positive, and definitely a nice thing to bring to the Twin Cities, but it's also a fraction of the $4(00) or $500 million numbers being thrown around by the NFL."

And there are costs associated with a big event. The city of Minneapolis had to close down streets, change traffic signs and bring in more law enforcement.

A spokesperson for the city said that all those costs are expected to be covered by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. Partners on the committee include businesses like Best Buy, Ecolab and Hormel Foods.

In all, the committee says it raised $53 million in private donations that will pay for everything from free public events to law enforcement.

The state of Minnesota exempted all tickets to Super Bowl events from sales tax.

The Philadelphia Eagles celebrate after defeating the New England Patriots.
The Philadelphia Eagles celebrate after defeating the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Hannah Foslien | Getty Images

But the NFL was also promised other incentives that are harder to pin down. Minnesota's bid to the NFL was leaked to the Star Tribune in 2014, and included requests like 35,000 free parking spaces. It's not clear if that request was granted.

Since the Super Bowl committee is a private entity, the details of the final deal will likely not be available to the public. A spokesperson from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority that runs U.S. Bank Stadium said the authority doesn't have a copy of the bid documents.

Public Record Media, a nonprofit that uses open government laws to make records requests all over the country, has been trying to get records about the Super Bowl since 2014.

"More and more private entities are going to government agencies and trying to leverage benefits paid for by the public, and they're doing it on promises that are sometimes very hard to gauge," executive director Matt Ehling said. "It's difficult to measure the economic impact of something like the Super Bowl, when you don't know all of the factors that are going into the calculations."