Extra Points

So You Want to Host the Super Bowl, Boston?


If so, be prepared to pay for it.

In order to secure the rights to host the 2018 Super Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings promised to build a new stadium, with taxpayers footing 56 percent of the $1 billion bill.

Being awarded the big game presumably puts you in a line for an economic windfall of tourism dollars, but it also comes with an expensive list of NFL requirements, according to a new document obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Meant to be confidential, the 153-page list includes, in part:

-- 35,000 free parking spaces
-- Presidential suites at no cost in high-end hotels
-- Guarantees to receive all revenue from the game's ticket sales
-- Free access to three “top quality” golf courses during the summer or fall before the Super Bowl
-- Demands that government officials create "clean zones" within a one-mile radius of the stadium and a six-block radius from the NFL's official hotel. The zones are defined as spaces which “provide for the temporary suspension of new, and possibly existing, permits for such activities.”
-- Travel expenses for an 180-member party of NFL officials to come to Minneapolis for a "familiarization trip" ahead of the Super Bowl to inspect the region
-- A requirement for the hotels where the teams stay to televise the NFL Network for a full year in advance of the game, at no cost to the league
-- The installation of ATMs inside the arena that accept "NFL preferred credit cards", and the coverage or removal of other ATMS
-- The erection of new cell phone towers -- at the expense of the host committee -- if the league deems cell coverage insufficient at the team hotels
-- Access to two “top quality bowling venues" at no cost to the league for the Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic
-- 20 free billboards
-- And this one quoted from the Star Tribune:

The league also asked for benefits in the local media “to provide significant advertising and promotional time” for the “NFL Experience” in the month leading up to the game. Among them: At least 20 color pages of free space, in aggregate, in leading daily newspapers to promote the game and four weeks of free promotions on at least six local radio stations, including at least 250 live or prerecorded ads.

Most of the items on the list make sense from a standpoint of controlling the NFL's brand, but the notion that the host city should foot the bill for billboards and parking and for 180 NFL employees to take a trip to Minneapolis seems laughable for a league raking in billions of dollars. In 2013, the league cleared more than $9 billion in revenues, making it the most lucrative sports league in the world.

The Minneapolis host committee tells the Star Tribune it has secured $30 million to help "offset the public costs for staging the game", but considering the frivolity of some of the items on the list, asking the public -- or private businesses like a bowling alley -- to pay for them seems ludicrous.

In response to criticism over the list, the host committee added, “We have guaranteed that [more than] 100,000 visitors will descend on this community, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity.”

A Boston-based Super Bowl, discussed as a real possibility after New York/New Jersey hosted an outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl last year, who presumably come with the same league stipulations. From the Globe's Ben Volin:

It shouldn’t be too difficult to pull off, weather permitting of course. The media center and operations could be focused in a touristy part of downtown. The two teams easily could stay in hotels in Quincy and Braintree, as NFL teams often do when they play the Patriots. Media interviews could be done at the team hotels -- a mere 20-minute trip from downtown with an escort -- and then one team could bus down to Foxborough every day for practice, while the other team buses up to, say, Boston College for theirs.

That Gillette Stadium is in Foxborough and some of the game's related events might take place in Boston would complicate the burden of who pays for what, however. It doesn't make sense for the 16,865 or so residents (as of the 2010 census) of Foxborough to foot the bill for the NFL on some of this stuff when the city of Boston would stand to benefit more from the tourist dollars.

Now that the list of economic demands has become public, it remains to be seen whether the host committee of the next unknown Super Bowl city will be able to quietly agree to foot the bill. Host cities also reserve the right to negotiate with the league, though given that its a competition for the game, saying no to something could jeopardize the bid. In Minnesota, the NFL asked for the “exclusive right to select vendors to sell Super Bowl merchandise at local airports", a request which was denied.

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