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The Super Bowl's economic impact: Super-hype?

The committee responsible for bringing Super Bowl XLIX to Arizona this weekend estimates that the game will give the Phoenix area's economy a $500 million jolt. But at least one economist who studies the financial impact of sports say that estimate is inflated by a factor of about five.

This year's National Football League championship, played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, likely will yield an impact of between $30 million to $130 million, according to estimates from Victor Matheson at the College of the Holy Cross.

"It's a far cry from $500 million," Matheson said in an interview. "The economic impact studies do a fairly good job at measuring the economic impact that does occur but don't do a good job at measuring the economic impact that doesn't occur."

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For instance, the 100,000 or so visitors that the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee expects to come to Arizona for the big game are displacing visitors that would have come anyway to the warm-weather state during January. Local residents who attend the game or spend money on Super Bowl-related purchases won't be spending elsewhere, said Matheson.

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that this year's Super Bowl, which matches the New England Patriots against the Seattle Seahawks, will generate $206 million in direct spending in the Phoenix area in tourism, lodging and transportation.

"This year's projection is the second-highest on record, however the inflation adjusted result is approximately two percent lower than our estimate for Arizona's last Super Bowl in 2008; the market benefiting that year from pre-recession spending levels and a slightly higher profile game matchup involving a New York market team and the Patriots attempt at a perfect season," said Adam Jones of PwC US in a news release.

One Arizona resident who won't be attending the game is Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, who told the The New York Times he was worried that his cash-strapped city of 230,000 won't be able to afford the added costs that come with the Super Bowl, including $2.1 million in additional security. To make matters worse, approximately 40 percent of Glendale's debt is earmarked to paying off sports complexes.

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"Shouldering the direct costs of putting extra police on the streets while enduring cutbacks on city services caused by ill-advised investments in sports facilities clearly is a bitter pill for Weiers," said an Arizona Republic editorial.

Weiers, who is in a high-profile spat with the Arizona Cardinals over who should fund upgrades to the University of Phoenix Stadium, couldn't immediately be reached for comment. The Host Committee and the NFL also didn't respond to emails requesting comment for this story.

The debate over the economics of sports also is taking center stage in Boston, which is vying to host the 2024 Summer Games. Mayor Marty Walsh has vowed not to use public funds to build stadium if the city is selected. Critics such as the Boston Globe have accused the Games' backers of underestimating the costs.