PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – JANUARY 28
By Leo Haggerty
LOTS OF LOST CHA-CHING
Yes, this has been a “once in a lifetime” year for professional sports franchises in Tampa Bay. The Lightning won the Stanley Cup. The Rays got to the World Series. Now, the Buccaneers are the first team in National Football League history to qualify for the Super Bowl that will be played in its home stadium. Not too many cities with multiple professional sports teams can even come close to this accomplishment. Congratulations to all three pro sports teams. Great job but there is a sour note that must be addressed.
Sadly, these championship seasons did not equate to increased revenue for the owners of these organizations. Let’s look at all the home playoff games that did not materialize due to new pandemic protocols that forced two leagues to play at sequestered sites throughout North America.
We’ll start with hockey because they finished first. If you go back over the schedule, the Bolts would have played 12 times at the friendly confines of Amalie Arena to standing room only crowds. The anticipated revenue from those dozen games, using a $100 a ticket for the 19,000 fans that would pack the arena, would have brought in at least $22 million just in ticket sales.
That’s a very conservative number. Also, remember that does not include concession sales or any other amenities that the Lightning would have realized. With that being said, I would say that figure is more in the range of $40 million and probably higher.
Now, let’s examine the Rays. Including the expanded Wild Card scenario, Tampa Bay would have ended up with 12 home playoff games as well. Using the same $100 average ticket price as the barometer as well as the 32,000 people that paid to see the 2019 playoff games at Tropicana Field, we’re talking about around $38 million in ticket sales.
Again, a very low estimate. If we include other revenue streams, such as food and memorabilia as well as other income sources, I would estimate the loss to be at least $80 million.
Now for the Bucs. Because the team played all three post season tilts on the road, no revenue was lost. Only the home team gets to keep the revenue. Visiting squads only get expenses.
The big loser with Super Bowl LV is the greater Tampa Bay business community and the city of Tampa plus Hillsborough County along with the state of Florida. Tax revenue that would have been generated by the tens of thousands of rabid fans that would descend upon the city for at least a week, and possibly two, would have been enormous. Any thought of that happening was quickly extinguished when the NFL chose to limit fan attendance to 22,000.
The money lost to service industries, like hotels and restaurants along with bars, and their workers is exponential. The worst part is that it’s revenue that cannot be made up.
Here’s my memo to the NFL. At best, kick all the Super Bowl sites back a year and give Tampa Bay another shot at it in 2022. At worst, place Tampa in the next available slot, which is 2024, to host Super Bowl LVIII.
From my vantage point, it’s the right thing to do. Let’s hope that Commissioner Goodell and the owners are in agreement too.