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Bucs could cost our area bucks
By KYLE PARKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 1, 2000
TAMPA -- Everyone in town is cheering for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to make the Super Bowl, it seems.
But if you think only in terms of dollars and cents, it would be better for the Tampa Bay area if the Bucs don't make it.
The reason: If the host team is playing in the game, that's fewer tickets being sold to out-of-towners who spend money on hotel rooms, rental cars and meals in restaurants.
"The key to economic impact is how much money is coming from outside the area," said Robert Baade, an economist at Lake Forest (Ill.) College who studies sports issues.
As the host team, the Bucs stands to get about 10 percent of the 72,000 or so seats for the Jan. 28 game at Raymond James Stadium.
Meanwhile, each of the teams playing in the game normally gets 17 percent of the seats. So if the Bucs reach the Super Bowl, NFL officials say they'd come up with a special plan for the allocation of seats, with the Bucs getting between 10 and 27 percent.
Whatever the league decided that percentage would be, Bucs fans would be taking more of the prized tickets. And while they would spend a lot of money, Baade said, "that is money that's already in your area. It would just be redirected."
To be sure, there's much more than economic impact to consider in gauging how the game will help the Tampa Bay area. More than 800-million people from around the world will be watching, and there will be 3,000 media representatives on hand.
"It's hard for anyone to put a price tag on the value of the exposure, but that's a huge intangible," said Michael Kelly, executive director of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl XXXV Task Force.
That part of the benefit is the only thing that sports economists can agree on when the topic of the Super Bowl comes up.
Kathleen Davis, an economics professor at Florida Atlantic University and consultant, conducted a widely touted Super Bowl economic impact study two years ago for the NFL.
She says a Super Bowl brings $239-million in actual expenditures, and $396-million in total impact, which includes the effect of vendors using their profits to invest in their businesses' growth.
While there's no doubt that a lot of money is spent at the Super Bowl -- an overwhelmingly corporate event -- plenty of critics think Davis' numbers are wildly inflated.
Among them is Baade, who says he can't come up with more than $60-million in actual impact. "Even that may be overly generous," he said. "The economic impact is about one-tenth of what the apologists say it is. Just move the decimal point over."
Baade's thinks sports leagues leverage such studies, which use multipliers to gauge how money spent at events ripples through the economy, to pitch cities on the value of new stadiums.
Davis stands by the study. But even she says "the key is not the numbers."
What's important to the Tampa Bay area is that many visitors will want to return, she said, and that the world will see this part of Florida on their TV screens.
And what if the Bucs are in the game? Hoteliers, restaurateurs and other business people say they aren't worried, because they figure there will be plenty of business regardless.
The official hotel for the NFC, the Bucs' conference, will be the Wyndham Westshore Hotel in Tampa. The league has assured hotel officials that even if the Bucs get to the game, the team and its entourage would fill the place.
Other hotels report that bookings are strong -- 16,000 hotel rooms have already been reserved -- and about 35 percent of the attendees won't book rooms until they know their team is in the game.
So while a Bucs appearance in the game would lessen the economic impact for the area, no one seems to be worrying about it.
"What's great is that people will see everything that's new here that wasn't here last time (in January 1991)," said the task force's Kelly. "The Ice Palace, the Marriott Waterside hotel, Ybor City's expansion, the new Raymond James Stadium. People will be surprised."
- Times staff writer Ernest Hooper contributed to this report.