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Payoff for hosting Series, Super Bowl isn't just cash

Susan Sherer was driving to work in Detroit Monday when she heard on the radio the Tampa Bay Rays made the World Series.

"That is so cool for them," she said she thought, "because it was such a collective lift for us."

Sherer is not much of a baseball fan, but she knows football from her days leading Detroit's Super Bowl host committee. And she fondly remembers 2006, the year Detroit had both the Super Bowl and the World Series.

Hosting both games in a year's time is a distinction few cities share: Detroit (2006), Atlanta (1999-2000), San Diego (1998), Minneapolis (1991-92) and Los Angeles (1977).

Now Tampa Bay, home of the Rays, host of Super Bowl XLIII, joins the two-fer club.

It's a transformative experience, Sherer says, though the events are different.

"One is because you care about your home team, and the other is because you care about your hometown," she said. "But both are about pride and stepping up as a community."

Debating the championships' economic impact can be as controversial as a close call at home plate.

Big games mean big bucks, says one school of thought.

This spring, for example, the NFL predicted Tampa's Super Bowl would draw about 150,000 visitors, with the average visitor spending $350 per day and staying four days.

One study of spending at the last Super Bowl in Arizona pegged the event's economic impact at $500-million.

But not everyone agrees.

In 1999, University of South Florida economist Philip Porter studied county sales tax revenue, hotel bookings, airline passengers and other measurable economic indicators for Tampa's past Super Bowls.

His conclusion: They didn't move the needle economically.

Since then, Porter said, 40 studies and papers by other economists have reached similar conclusions about the Olympics, the NCAA Final Four, World Cup soccer and, yes, the World Series.

In 2005, economists at the College of the Holy Cross and Lake Forest College offered a "best guess" estimate of the economic impact of the World Series at $6.8-million per home game. That's roughly half the estimates offered by individual cities.

"They don't generate any economic impact," Porter says of the big games. "Cultural impact? Excitement? Absolutely."

Well, no argument there.

"People begin to view your region a little differently when you host these major events," Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said. "They view you as a major corporate center. They view you as a major center of commerce. They view you as a major population center."

Believe it, says Ky Snyder, president of the Super Bowl host committee in San Diego in 1998.

"It's an incredible opportunity to put your best foot forward as a community," he said.

So Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, the official marketing organization for Pinellas County, wants to make the most of this promotional quinella.

The group is offering Fox Sports new high-definition aerial video of local beaches, including Caladesi Island, ranked this year as America's best beach.

It also is rounding up engaging local nuggets for broadcasters about the Dali Museum, the coming collection of glassworks by Dale Chihuly and Tampa Bay's status as the birthplace of commercial aviation.

"For us, this is as big as it gets," said Mary Haban, the group's senior manager for public relations. "It showcases the destination not only to the country, but worldwide."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Championship two-fers

2008-09: The Tampa Bay Rays play in the 2008 World Series in St. Petersburg. In February, Tampa will host the Super Bowl.

2006: Detroit hosts the Super Bowl in February. That fall, the Detroit Tigers play in the World Series.

1999-2000: The Atlanta Braves play in the 1999 World Series. In January 2000, Atlanta hosts the Super Bowl.

1998: The city of San Diego hosts the Super Bowl in January. That fall, the San Diego Padres play in the World Series.

1991-92: Here's the precedent Rays fans want to see: The Minnesota Twins win the 1991 World Series a few months before the city of Minneapolis hosts the 1992 Super Bowl.

1977: The Super Bowl is played in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. That fall, the Los Angeles Dodgers play in the World Series.

Payoff for hosting Series, Super Bowl isn't just cash 10/21/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 24, 2008 8:34pm]
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