There is a great deal of whining going on down in the Crescent City over the loss of the 2018 Super Bowl. Many New Orleanians who were part of the bid process felt they were far and away the front-runners to host the big game for the 11th time. After all, the year would be the city’s 300th anniversary. It turned out that the rest of the NFL couldn’t have cared less. There might have been some sympathy towards New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in allowing the 2013 game to be played there. But a Super Bowl in New Orleans in the near future seems like a real long shot.
To win the Super Bowl, a city needs a new state of the art stadium that costs well over $1 billion. Minneapolis, which won out over New Orleans, spent that, and so did Atlanta, which seems a cinch to get the bid in 2019.
Old wounds no doubt came into play when opposing cities lobbied for their town, and then quietly undermined the New Orleans effort. Forbes Magazine referred to the blackout during the 2013 game saying outage would hurt the city’s future chances. And gouging hotel prices were also used against New Orleans. During the last game played in New Orleans, average room rates skyrocketed on average more 300%, with some hotels exceeding 590%. And the hotel, motel tax is one of the highest in America.
But it’s the stadium. You just gotta have a new stadium to hook a Super Bowl bid-right? And the drums are already sounding for the State of Louisiana to pony up a billion or so in an effort to bring the big game back to the Crescent City as soon as possible. Local TV station WWL raised the question in a headline that read: “Does New Orleans need a new stadium to land a Super Bowl?” And one commentator at the state’s largest paper, the Times Picayune, lamented: “Saints owner Tom Benson needs to start planning for a New Stadium…New Orleans will not have a chance in hell with all other cities having brand spanking new stadiums all hoping for one chance to host the Super Bowl.”
So does New Orleans need a new stadium? Sure, if the public dollars are unlimited and the taxpayers don’t mind continuing to paying through the nose. The current Superdome is just a few years away from a $350 million renovation. That’s all taxpayer money.
Forbes Magazine recently reported that the Saints owner Tom Benson will receive almost $400 million from state subsidies through 2025. “He negotiated one of the most complex — and lucrative — stadium lease agreements in the NFL, adding to his fortune as his team was bringing in estimated yearly profits of $31 million. Over the 15 year the term of the lease, the state will pay Benson at least $198 million in increased revenue from the Superdome, $142 million in rental payments on property Benson owns, $10 million in bonuses for bringing the Super Bowl to New Orleans and $2.6 million in tax breaks.”
Then there is the agreement for the state to lease space in a downtown office building being purchased by the Saints owners. The building is adjacent to the Superdome and the state is to lease more than 320,000 feet at $24 dollars square foot, which is one of the highest rental rates in the state today. So Louisiana taxpayers are basically paying the cost of the building the Saints ownership is buying.
“That’s incredible. I‘ve never heard of that one before,” said Robert Baade, an economist at Lake Forest University who studies stadium financing. “There is no end in how creative governments get to supporting subventions. That’s just another form of subsidy.” Just how much more in public subsidies will taxpayers be willing to pay as other state programs are being cut to the bone?
New Orleans has been on a roll hosting far more Super Bowls than any other city. Now other cities, with justification, are demanding part of the action. Winner Minneapolis has hosted one Super Bowl in the past, and Atlanta only two. New Orleans can well rest on its laurels, and it’s time will come again, sometime down the line. For now, Louisiana taxpayers, who have paid out massive state tax dollars, need a well-deserved break.