Making Up Numbers

The economic boost provided by major sporting events can’t be emphasized enough… by how lackluster it is. Those who argue for public funding to build stadiums or host major sporting events like the Olympics and Super Bowl will show a bunch of numbers to make their point. One of their favorite numbers to bring up is the number of visitors the hosting city will receive from events. For example, we’ve been told that Minneapolis will receive about 1 million visitors during the Super Bowl. That number sounds impressive until you realize that it’s bullshit:

The number is tossed about frequently in national and local media reports: 1 million people are expected to visit Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.


“What’s a visitor?” I asked Kenneth McGill, managing director of West Chester, Pa.-based Rockport Analytics.

“A visitor is one of two things,” McGill said. “It’s a person who has stayed overnight in some sort of paid accommodation. In that context it doesn’t matter where they’re from. The could live downtown and move to a hotel just to experience it all.

“The second definition of a visitor is someone who has traveled more than 50 miles, one-way, to get to the event.”

If McGill’s visitor estimate comes true, it means that roughly 874,600 of the 1 million visitors expected by the Host Committee already live in the Twin Cities, a metro area with a population of 3.5 million.

So Minneapolis shouldn’t expect 1 million visitors. It should expect roughly 125,000. While 125,000 people might bring a bit of business to the Twin Cities that wouldn’t have existed without the Super Bowl, I have my doubts that it will be anywhere near enough to compensate the tax cattle of Minneapolis and Minnesota for the publicly funded security expenses alone.

I guess on the upside the arrival of the Super Bowl has forced the state and municipal governments to fix some of their damned roads. Even though I’m told that I have to pay taxes to maintain the roads it seems like the roads are only maintained when people from out of town are visiting. Why I have to pay for road repairs to impress people from out of town is also a mystery to me.

2 thoughts on “Making Up Numbers”

  1. Add to the fact that the Twin Cities don’t really have the infrastructure for massive sporting events and it compounds the cost issue. Some cities have experience hosting sporting events as large as the Super Bowl every year if not more than one Atlanta for example had at least 4 games with more attendance than the Super Bowl in just the last 6 months. And Atlanta sucks at road repairs just like the rest of the state so they don’t even go out of their way to do that.

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