In June, Mayor Mitch Landrieu complained that the city netted just $500,000 from hosting the 2013 Super Bowl because the city had to spend so much to ramp up city services compared to what it got in tax dollars.
Nevertheless, documents provided to The Lens show that the city agreed to provide a similar level of service for the 2018 Super Bowl, including police, emergency personnel and enforcement against counterfeit goods, all at no cost to the National Football League.
It’s unclear how much that would have cost the city. The Police Department budgeted $1.7 million “to ensure things go smoothly” for Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, The New Orleans Advocate has reported. In June 2013, police chief Ronal Serpas told the City Council that the department spent $600,000 in overtime alone during Super Bowl week.
In the city’s 2018 bid, the Super Bowl Host Committee promised to cover up to $3.5 million in police and emergency services at the Superdome and official NFL venues. If the city’s bid had been successful — it lost out to Minneapolis — that money may have come from the state, which committed $6 million for the 2013 event.
Landrieu brought up the Super Bowl in a June 25 speech about how he planned to pay big bills facing the city to reform the Police Department and jail and to fund the firefighters pension system.
He said people had asked him how the city was spending the money it had presumably raked in from hosting the game in 2013.
“Here’s the truth: Most of the benefit went to others and to the state,” Landrieu said, according to NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune.
He continued: “Even though the Super Bowl is a multimillion-dollar event, this city’s general fund, your bank account, only netted $500,000, barely breaking even for the army of police, fire, EMS, sanitation, public works, permitting and other city employees who work day in and day out to make sure everything went off without a hitch.”
The NFL asks a lot in exchange for bringing its premier event to cities around the country, as The Star Tribune reported in June after Minneapolis secured the 2018 game:
Free police escorts for team owners, and 35,000 free parking spaces. Presidential suites at no cost in high-end hotels. Free billboards across the Twin Cities. Guarantees to receive all revenue from the game’s ticket sales — even a requirement for NFL-preferred ATMs at the stadium.
The Star Tribune published the full, 153-page list of “bid specifications” the NFL gave to the Minneapolis host committee.
New Orlean’s 2018 Super Bowl bid was made by a private, nonprofit group that hasn’t received public funds, so it’s not subject to public-records laws. But the city did have to sign off on some aspects.
The city provided those portions of the bid on Tuesday, a month after The Lens filed a public-records request.
One part of the document, called “Government Guarantees,” covers items like police and emergency services. The other, called “Super Bowl Boulevard,” covers the creation of an “interactive football themed event” that would “link multiple blocks, in a downtown or city center location.”
First Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin made minor adjustments to the NFL’s extensive list of requests.
Responding to the request that police and emergency service expenses at the Superdome and NFL-controlled facilities be covered in full, Kopplin placed a budget of $3.5 million, to be covered by the Super Bowl Host Committee. That amount, Kopplin wrote, “represents $1,000,000 in excess of the NFL bid specification recommendation.”
Also included in the NFL’s definition of “public safety” services: free police escorts for teams, their owners, the media and game officials, as well as a dedicated senior police officer for each team during its stay.
Kopplin’s commitment did not address the cost of extra police or emergency staffing elsewhere in the city during Super Bowl week.
The source of the $3.5 million committed by the 2018 Host Committee is not spelled out in the document. For the 2013 game, the state agreed to give $6 million to that year’s Host Committee. An audit released in October showed that it had received about $2.2 million from the state by the end of 2012. That’s the most recent audit available.
Tuesday, The Lens asked the 2018 Host Committee for a copy of the full bid and for information about where the $3.5 million would come from. The Lens also asked if the 2013 Host Committee received the full $6 million from the state. A spokeswoman for the 2018 Host Committee responded Wednesday that she would work on answers but didn’t follow up by early Thursday afternoon.
A spokeswoman for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, whose president headed the 2013 committee and was on the board for the 2018 committee, could not be reached.
Kopplin did not agree unconditionally to a demand that the NFL, its affiliates and member teams be exempt from all state and local taxes.
Instead, he said the city, the NFL and the Host Committee would come up with a “mutually agreeable process for rebating, refunding, or prepaying the NFL for sales and [hotel] occupancy taxes collected by the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana.”
In 2013, local government bodies, including the city and the Orleans Parish School Board, agreed to refund up to $800,000 in local taxes to the league and member teams.* The actual refund came to about $500,000.
Finally, Kopplin wrote that the city could not agree to the NFL’s request for the right of first refusal to buy public-transit ads. A private company, Laurel Outdoor Advertising, controls ads on RTA buses, streetcars and shelters.
“It is understood that Laurel has long-term commitments on such advertising, but they have committed to the Host Committee to provide as much available inventory as possible to the NFL and/or their sponsors,” Kopplin wrote.
The city agreed to every other NFL request without objection, including:
Passing a city ordinance creating so-called Clean Zones for the event, where non-NFL-sanctioned advertising and sales permits would be banned
Providing law enforcement to stop the sale of counterfeit NFL merchandise
Committing airport personnel to provide special services to team charter planes, private planes and fan charters
The city also agreed to some items that would not require any city action, such as allowing alcohol service until 4 a.m. at certain venues. And odds are it wouldn’t have had to do anything to meet one NFL requirement: equipment and services to deal with a snowstorm.
What the city agreed to for the 2018 Super Bowl
*Correction: This story originally stated that the city agreed to refund up to $800,000 in taxes to the NFL and its teams in 2013. That agreement was made by four of the taxing entities in Orleans Parish — the city itself, the Orleans Parish School Board, the Regional Transit Authority and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. (July 31, 2014)