Unofficial Business: Super Bowl 'win' just a rebate on tax-backed stadium

Find Matt on Facebook ( and Twitter (@MattKempner) or email him at

ExploreOther Kempner’s Unofficial Business columns:

Current and upcoming Super Bowl cities (and which have new stadiums)

2021 — L.A. (Stadium expected to open in 2019)

2020 – Miami (Owner funding $400 million-plus renovation)

2019 – Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium to open in 2017)

2018 – Minneapolis (New stadium opening)

2017 – Houston (Not new)

2016 – Santa Clara, Calif. (New)

We would have called the cops if Atlanta hadn’t been chosen to host the Super Bowl.

Because not getting the nod from NFL owners for the 2019 game or one close to it would have seemed like fraud.

After all, we bought the game.

Government leaders agreed to chip in $26 million in tax breaks and other goodies. (Local businesses offered another $20 million.) But that's just the pretty bow on the package.

The real transaction was when government leaders agreed to dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars in hotel-motel taxes to help build the $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium and fund its operations and maintenance for years.

The Atlanta Falcons keep playing in Atlanta, and we got the wink-wink from the NFL that when it was time to select Super Bowl host cities, team owners would view Atlanta very favorably, if you know what I mean.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” Falcons team owner Arthur Blank said he told his people as they lobbied for the game.

The vote went to the fourth ballot before Atlanta was named. By then, someone should have been swearing out a warrant.

Each of the five newest NFL stadiums in the last decade have landed a Super Bowl, according to my colleague Tim Tucker. And in San Diego, where taxpayers are contemplating paying richly for a new stadium, the NFL is waving Super Bowl dibs like a new iPhone to a 13 year old.

Shortly after the Atlanta announcement, Mayor Kasim Reed told WSB-TV: "I'm going to be on the telephone doing a lot of hoopin and hollerin and high fiving and thanking folks."

The city of Atlanta is on an economic rise. Good things are happening. But as much as I want it to be, the Super Bowl is not a statement about what a great place Atlanta is.

Hosting the game is no longer a measure of whether a community is a cool place to hold a party for out-of-town guests. It’s just a one-time rebate check that comes after taxpayers subsidize the business of pro football.

It’s a transaction, and we kept the receipt.

Economists who aren’t paid by teams or boosters generally say the economic impact of big sports palaces is way less than what’s forecast by economists who are paid by teams and boosters.

But the Super Bowl will bring lots of excitement to downtown. And there should be good money to be made at some intown restaurants and hotels. There also will be gobs of media attention, most of it positive if we can just avoid another ice-fest like our last Super Bowl in 2000.

I’d like to swing downtown myself to get a whiff of the atmosphere.

But most of us won’t actually buy a ticket to the game.

(A survey from New Orleans in 2013 suggested that three-fourths of the Super Bowl attendees there were out-of-towners. Half the attendees indicated they made more than $100,000 a year. That's less than I would have thought.)

Most of us will watch the game at home or at a friend’s place. Just like we would if it was in Santa Clara, Calif., Glendale, Ariz., or East Rutherford, N.J. (I had to look up where each of the last three were. What does that tell you about their long-term PR value?)

We’ll still have a fancy new stadium that taxes helped pay for, of course. But I think the NFL has a no-returns policy.