First, Matheson explains, there’s crowding out. This takes into account the people who will be skipping their annual Phantom of the Opera holiday to steer clear of a hundred thousand football fans in Times Square (renamed “Super Bowl Boulevard” for the occasion). Matheson recounted that Broadway attendance fell 20 percent when the Republican National Convention was held in New York in 2004. And it’s not just folks that want to miss the rowdy crowd. People are also wise to the price hikes that tend to accompany big-name events.
Then there’s the substitution effect. Almost two-thirds of the 400,000 Super Bowl revelers are expected to come from within the region. Many of these people would have likely been participating in some other activity that impacted the local economy. Should the final tally include a family who pays $5 each to slide down the NFL’s 58-foot-high toboggan instead of going to see a movie at a local theater? Will a New Yorker who eats a pile of chicken wings do so regardless of where the Super Bowl takes place?
Finally, any true measure of economic impact has to take into account something economists call leakage—an effect that occurs when money spent in the region leaves the local economy. For instance, Matheson explains, though New York hotels will be jam-packed at double the usual rate, the increase in profits will be celebrated by corporate headquarters; the money doesn’t trickle down to desk clerks and housekeeping staffs—already some of the lowest-paid workers in any business sector.