Analysts: Super Bowl spending could be off nearly 20 percent

Worries over the recession's toll on the Feb. 1 Super Bowl now have a number: $30-million.

That's how much less corporations and visitors will spend in the Tampa Bay area than they would in normal economic times, says PricewaterhouseCoopers, the big audit and consulting firm.

The game and its associated hoopla will bring the area a financial windfall of $150-million, not the $180-million it would have if the country wasn't in a deep recession, according to the annual Super Bowl economic impact forecast released Wednesday.

The impact is significantly below the nearly $200-million in local spending generated at the each of the past two Super Bowls, in Glendale, Ariz., and South Florida. It's only a few million dollars more than the game brought to Tampa in 2001.

This year's Super Bowl was a victim of bad timing, says Robert Canton, a company director who specializes in the tourism and sports industries. Businesses set plans for the Super Bowl six to 12 months in advance. Last year, decision time fell as the nation's financial crisis took hold.

Companies cut back on Super Bowl parties and trimmed guest lists for the game, Canton said. At least two out of three ticket holders have some corporate connection.

"Sponsors say they're still going," he said. "But because of the economy, they're only sending their people from the Southeast or Florida or the Tampa region as opposed to from all over the country."

An NFL spokesman didn't return a call to comment. Earlier this week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that Super Bowl fans might rein in their wallets but not their spirit. The league estimates Super Bowl will bring 100,000 visitors to the area.

Hotels in Hillsborough are filling up, said Steve Hayes, executive vice president of the county's tourism marketing agency, Tampa Bay & Co.

Only 16 of more than 75 Hills­borough properties eligible to sell rooms on the agency's Web site were offering vacancies for Super Bowl weekend as of Wednesday morning. Most charged from $250 to $300 per night with three- and four-night minimum stays.

"That tells you a lot of hotels don't have availability," Hayes said. "If they were hurting real bad, you'd see rates dropping."

Some Pinellas beach resorts not affiliated with chains, however, were struggling. The Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites in Treasure Island is just 60 percent full for Super Bowl weekend. Sales manager Oliver Kugler, a veteran of Pinellas hotels, sensed trouble last summer.

"For prior Super Bowls, hotels sold out as early as mid August," he said. "It's mainly due to a lot of corporate and (company) incentive business we're not seeing in the numbers we saw before," he said.

"At the end of September, the phones weren't ringing as much as they should have been."

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Analysts: Super Bowl spending could be off nearly 20 percent 01/21/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 9:07am]

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