Monday night’s National Football League matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs was expected to generate tens of millions of dollars for Mexico City’s economy.
With the game’s last-minute relocation to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Rams may have gained a home-field advantage, but sports economists were skeptical that the millions pouring into Mexico would follow the teams north of the border.
The NFL had viewed the Nov. 19 contest at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, between two of the league’s best teams this season, as a major money-maker. A regular season game played two years earlier at the stadium generated $45 million in local economic activity, according to an NFL study.
Economists doubt that type of business boost would translate to another regular season game in L.A., however.
“An NFL game has a limited economic impact.” said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, a Westchester consulting firm.
With the game now taking place at the L.A. Coliseum in L.A.’s Exposition Park, economists said local financial impacts from ticket sales, hotel reservations, food and drink sales, and other tourism revenue will be minimal.
The NFL moved the game to Los Angeles because the league said the Mexico City field’s conditions were dangerous for the players.
Tickets for the Rams-Chiefs game at the Coliseum went on sale Nov. 14 at $80 and up, with the Rams giving the team’s season ticket holders the first chance to buy seats.
The NFL said some ticketholders for the Mexico City game could have their tickets transferred to the new locale, but as of press time, they had not announced a reimbursement or ticket-exchange policy. The Rams said they’re giving away a few thousand tickets to first responders and victims of recent Southern California wildfires.
The ticket sales will minimally impact the Rams’ bottom line. Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, all ticket revenue is shared among the participating teams, regardless of where the game is played.
Rick Burton, a sports management professor at Syracuse University, said that much like a Super Bowl or other one-off sporting events, a rare Mexico City game could boost the host city’s hospitality industry.
“The Mexico City game could have brought in a lot of people from out of town to spend disposable money,” Burton said. By contrast, another Rams game at the Coliseum probably will bring in few people from out of town, he said.
Burton added that the 11th hour relocation could increase the number of out-of- towners, namely fans with enough disposable income to reroute vacation from Mexico City to Los Angeles.
With the NFL calling an audible, there could be a “boost for hotel owners and other businesses in the area,” said Alan Reay, president of the Irvine-based Atlas Hospitality Group.
Roger Noll, a professor of sports economics at Stanford University, wasn’t so sure.
“Sporting events, including NFL games, generate very little tourism and, hence, add almost nothing to the local economy,” Noll said. “The money spent attending an NFL game almost completely is a substitute for some other discretionary spending, like going to the movies.”
One possible beneficiary is USC, manager of the 95-year-old Coliseum, which is jointly owned by the city, county and state.
The university has not disclosed how much the Rams pay to use the stadium, and a spokesman did not return requests for comment. The Rams are using the Coliseum until they move into a new football facility in Inglewood, which is slated to open in 2020.
Other universities have generated money from the temporary uses of stadiums. The Minnesota Vikings, for example, spent two years at a stadium managed by the University of Minnesota, and paid the university a reported $300,000 per game.
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