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Report Shows San Francisco Netted $1.2 Million on Super Bowl, but Gets a Little Creative with the Accounting

If you leave out a bunch of costs, the math totally works out.

Beer can artwork at Super Bowl City.


The long-anticipated San Francisco City Controller’s analysis on how much money the city amassed as Super Bowl host is here, and it seems everyone can agree on two things: Beer can artwork is tacky, and this report won’t satisfy anybody. 

Per the report, San Francisco ended up sitting on a $1.2 million surplus, which is what you get when you make $11.6 million off $9.6 million in expenditures, then subtract your “baseline requirements.” That $9.6 million, by the way, is double what our city fathers assured us hosting February’s Super Bowl would cost—which matters, as the city specifically did not require full reimbursement. Good thing we made money! 

Or did we? That’s actually hard to say. The Controller’s office is nigh unimpeachable, and nobody would suggest they’re adding up their numbers wrong or deliberately skewing the totals. In fact, the report, released to the public today, is very upfront about what it’s not factoring into the dollar totals. And it’s a lot. 

But first, the money we made: The Controller estimates hotel taxes reaped $6.2 million and San Francisco Airport brought in $1.8 million during the two weeks of Super Bowl festivities earlier this year. Those two figures alone account for the vast majority of the money flooding the host city, and, says deputy City Controller Todd Rydstrom, represent the office’s best estimate of how much we made as Super Bowl host, above and beyond what a worldwide touristic destination would have amassed anyway. “It’s an incredible number,” he says. 

But then there are the things that simply weren’t factored into the tabulations. In small text beneath the overall chart showing a surplus, careful readers will note the following: 

Costs not included for the following projects coinciding with SB 50: $75K for Market St WiFi Improvements; $550K for Moscone Radio Improvement; $619K for Installation of MTA Overhead Line Switch; and $119.6K for Old Mint Refurbishment. 

So, ostensibly, this is money—$1.4 million of it, in fact—that would have been spent eventually but was done so, now, to accommodate the Super Bowl. Rydstrom acknowledges that these projects benefited Super Bowl visitors, but points out they continue to benefit everyone else. Fair enough, but, here’s the thing: Maybe this money wouldn’t have been spent at all. And it hardly needs to be stated that this passel of expenditures alone puts the city into the red. But we’re not done. 

Also not included are the hundreds and hundreds of city employees were were allowed to “volunteer” to do Super Bowl-related work instead of their city jobs, on the city’s dime. And, also not included is the $500,000 in round-the-clock construction costs the Transbay Center racked up in order to speed up work prior to Super Bowl street closures. (Is the Transbay Joint Powers Authority a vestige of city government? No. Is a quarter of a billion dollars of city money slated to bail out its cost overruns? Yes. That makes it harder to argue its half-million-dollar Super Bowl hustle shouldn’t be added to the ledger.)  

And, finally, the supposed surplus the city came away with isn’t spread evenly. Certain elements of the city, such as the airport, came out ahead. Muni, the Giving Tree of this greedy city, came out $2.5 million in the hole. Rydstrom notes that San Francisco’s mad economy has led to several million dollars of extra tax money for Muni in 2016. But, he acknowledges, it lost millions in the two weeks of Super Bowl celebrations, and won’t specifically be made whole. 

Lastly, while Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos did not require overtime to put away the Carolina Panthers, San Francisco police officers did require 50,158 hours of overtime to oversee the event. That comes out to more than $4 million in police OT pay alone—the lion's share of the city's expenditures. 

No word on whether they’re going to Disneyland.  

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