So now that Los Angeles isn't going to have a football team anytime soon, what was really lost?
Although there are a variety of opinions on the overall economic impact of an NFL team on L.A.'s coffers, probably the most significant impact can be boiled down to two words: Super Bowl.
The decision of the NFL to award its 32nd franchise to Houston reduces to almost nil the chances that L.A. will anytime soon host what is arguably the biggest, most lucrative single event in American sports.
Lost in the local outcry over NFL demands that the city pony up public funds to help pay to bring a team here is the fact that the league often rewards successful bids by awarding the Super Bowl to those cities.
"The owners use the Super Bowl to pay back cities that put up public funds," said Kathryn Schloessman, president of the L.A. Sports & Entertainment Commission, a public agency dedicated to bringing events to the city.
With that single exception, the economic boost from building a stadium, hiring workers and selling merchandise is debatable.
Some point out that much of the employment generated is either short-term, in the case of the construction jobs, or low-wage, in the case of stadium vendors, who only work nine or 10 games a year. As for money spent on food, sweatshirts and the like, much of it would be end up in the local economy anyway, albeit elsewhere.
"It wouldn't have made the kind of economic change to the (Coliseum) area that the Staples Center would because you're not using it 300 times a year," said Ed Roski Jr., one of the bidders for an L.A. franchise.
Taxes are collected from ticket sales and player salaries, but that's just a small proportion of overall tax revenue. "The economic benefit of the team itself, on an ongoing basis, is like dropping a pebble in the ocean," said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the L.A. Economic Development Corp. "It's not much."
But others say the money from team salaries cannot be dismissed, nor can the benefit from the visibility generated by showing off L.A. to a national audience several times a year.
"Obviously it has an impact, from hotels, taxi cabs, souvenirs," said Roy Weinstein, chairman of Micronomics Inc., an economic research firm in Santa Monica. "These would be incremental revenues because people would come to see games from out of town. More than that, having a football team on national television creates an interest in the town. It's freezing back East, and the sun is out here. Having that exposure is tremendously valuable to the local market."
Despite their differences, both economists agree on the value of the Super Bowl.
"The only way (not having a team) affects the pocketbook is, we don't have the ability to host a Super Bowl game every four or five years," Kyser said.
Until the Rams and the Raiders left town, L.A. regularly hosted the Super Bowl, the last one in 1993 at the Rose Bowl. There hasn't been one since, nor will that change in the foreseeable future.
"Jerry Richardson (owner of the Carolina Panthers) has told me that we will never host a Super Bowl here without a football team," Schloessman said. "The biggest (event) you can bring to a city is the Super Bowl. It is the No. 1 corporate entertaining venue; executives throw money around. And we have lost the opportunity to host perhaps three Super Bowls in the next 10 years."
L.A. was host to the Super Bowl seven times (twice at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, five times at the Rose Bowl) in the championship game's first 27 years of existence.
Typically, those who attend Super Bowls aren't local. They come in for at least three days, hotels charge maximum rates, and the party never stops. Even then, the amount of revenue gained is up for debate. The figure most often quoted is $300 million in economic benefit per Super Bowl. But one of the more rigorous analyses of the impact from hosting a Super Bowl, done by UCLA's Anderson School of Management, determined that Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena in 1993 had an economic impact of $182 million.
"You see numbers like $300 million; I think that is way overblown, even taking into account inflation," said David Simon, president of the Los Angeles Sports Council, which helped bring the 1993 Super Bowl to L.A., and which commissioned the Anderson report. "People take our report and add 10 percent every year, and all of a sudden you have $300 million. The economic benefit is probably closer to $200 million, maybe $250 million, which is still a lot."
A lot, certainly. And the naming rights to a new stadium would have brought money too, as well as television revenue. But in the $300 billion economy that is L.A., having football here isn't going to make or break the city.
"It would have been very, very nice to have a team," Kyser said. "But this is a very large economy. We wish Houston the best."
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