Dallas lessons should strengthen Super Bowl in Indy

DALLAS—There’s a lot Indianapolis can learn from the folks here in Dallas about hosting a Super Bowl.

One of the biggest lessons: Plans are important, but they’re not everything.

Just ask organizers of Sunday’s game, who had to deal with about 400 fans that had tickets to the game but no seats because of an auxiliary seating area that did not pass muster. Spectators who did get in, meanwhile, found themselves waiting in super-sized lines for everything from concessions to rest rooms.

And all that was on top of a week of snow and ice that complicated travel, slowed visitor spending and turned critics’ eyes to the 2012 event scheduled for Indianapolis—900 miles north.

“The takeaway is, things just don’t go as planned,” said local host committee Chairman Mark Miles, who was in Dallas for the game. “We have to deal with things as they happen. Communication is key to let everyone in critical roles know what is happening almost real-time.”

Indianapolis’ host committee had members embedded in every aspect of Dallas’ game-day initiative, and Miles said that information would be processed in the coming week so it can be put to use.

The seating problems at Cowboys Stadium certainly caught their attention. Lucas Oil Stadium Director Mike Fox already is working closely with the National Football League to make sure the auxiliary seating in Indianapolis goes in without a glitch. Both stadiums were designed by Dallas-based HKS Sports & Entertainment Group.

Organizers also have to address an influx of vehicular and pedestrian traffic around the stadium on game day—something the local committee has said will be mitigated by Indianapolis’ compact, walkable downtown.

Then, of course, there’s dealing with whatever Mother Nature delivers.

The 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee will announce in two weeks how it plans “to be prepared for a full range of weather contingencies,” for the Super Bowl run-up next February, Miles said.

“We will be taking this more seriously than the city has ever had to for any weather contingency,” he said. “We’re going to be taking a little broader perspective. It’s not just shoveling sidewalks.”

“Senior leadership” from within city, state and host committee ranks will be working together to deal with weather, he said.
Weather—and how officials dealt with it—continued to be the most pressing issue among area merchants in the Dallas area.

Before a furious winter storm racked North Texas last week, a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP estimated that Dallas would ring up the biggest direct spending in the Super Bowl’s 45-year history.

The previous record was set during the pre-recession 2007 Super Bowl, which pitted the Indianapolis Colts against the Chicago Bears in Miami.

During that Super Sunday and the week leading up to it, the consulting firm calculated that visitors pumped $195 million into the greater Miami economy. When economists use spending multipliers—factoring in the money spent by people and companies in the community where visitors dumped cash—total economic impact estimates hit nearly $400 million.

This year, PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted that direct visitor spending would exceed $200 million for the first time in Super Bowl history.

But the inability of the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington to deal with snow and ice hurt. PricewaterhouseCoopers is in the process of re-evaluating, but most merchants say sales are up to 20 percent lower than expected.

Area stores and malls opened late and closed early Tuesday and Wednesday due to foul weather. Merchants said business was exceedingly slow those days and picked up only slightly Thursday before ramping up Friday and Saturday.

Even on Saturday, sidewalks in downtown Dallas were still covered with ice, hampering pedestrians from reaching restaurants and retail outlets.

Expectations were fueled by last year’s NBA All-Star weekend held in Dallas, when retail sales at area malls were up 40 percent to 50 percent, said Angie Free, Galleria Dallas Mall’s general manager.

But this year’s Super Bowl didn’t even come close, said Suzanne Campbell, manager of Pinto Ranch, an upscale western wear store in NorthPark Mall.

“It was very slow the first part of the week,” Campbell said. “But we’ve seen business pick up the last part of the week. We just wish the fans were staying until next Wednesday.”

Vendors at the stadium Sunday seemed to be doing better.

Business was off “maybe 5 percent” from previous Super Bowls, said Rick Arndt, who was selling a variety of Packers and Steelers gear outside Cowboys Stadium.

“But there’s still time for it to get better,” Arndt said 90 minutes before kick-off.

National Football League officials said they expected to sell $5 million worth of concession items and Super Bowl memorabilia inside the stadium on game day. The NFL Pro Shop was wall-to-wall fans more than two hours before the game.

Sports business experts estimated that vendors outside the stadium would sell another $3 million to $5 million worth of goods on game day.

That number could be bigger in a downtown setting like Indianapolis, sports business experts said, due to the ability of more authorized and unauthorized vendors to seek out locations in an urban setting to profit from the big game.

“The NFL tries to control it, but in a setting like New Orleans, or even Detroit, the vendors came out of the woodwork,” Arndt said. “I’d expect the same thing in Indianapolis.”

The hit to this year’s economic impact was not solely blamed on the weather. Part of it was attributed to the two small-market teams—Pittsburgh and Green Bay—that made the game, said Richard Sheehan, a University of Notre Dame economist and an author who has written books on sports business.

Many Dallas-area merchants were salivating over the possibility of a New York vs. Chicago Super Bowl.

“The big markets are likely to bring more wealthy people,” Sheehan said. “That’s simply because they have more wealthy people in those markets to draw on.”

The Super Bowl in general brings in a number of big spenders. Several Dallas retail stores ordered special lines of high-priced goods just for the Super Bowl, including one that brought in thigh-high python-skin boots selling for $5,549 and another that brought in Jimmy Choo handbags selling for $4,995.

Retailers told the Dallas Morning News those items weren’t flying off the shelves nearly as quickly as expected.

Arndt said different fan bases have different spending habits.

“New York and Chicago fan bases are known to spend their cash,” Arndt said.

Indianapolis Colts fans?

“They’re historically frugal,” Arndt said. “I know the fans there [in Indianapolis] won’t want to hear this, but the Colts making the Super Bowl next year in Indianapolis is about the worst thing economically that could happen to the city. First, they won’t bring in the travel dollars, and they just don’t spend like other markets.

“Last year, Saints fans outspent them two [dollars] to one,” Arndt added.

So why was the 2007 spend so big?

“First, having the Super Bowl in Miami just brings in more high-rollers,” Arndt said. “Corporate spending hadn’t tanked yet, and the Chicago fans made up for the fans from Indianapolis.”

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