Super Bowl Wrap-up

Amid rosy economic impact, officials worry a 'bathroom bill' could stall another Houston Super Bowl

Could 'bathroom bill' stall another Houston Super Bowl?

Super Bowl mascot in Discovery Green
Super Bowl LI brought in a net $347 million in new spending from visitors. Photo by Micahl Wycoff

Basking in the glow of a successful Super Bowl LI, Houston officials released a report showing a rosy economic impact from the big game and touted the prospect of another Super Bowl for H-Town if it's not stalled by the Texas state legislature's "bathroom bill."

Visit Houston president Mike Waterman said that his office is working with the Houston Texans to submit a bid for the next round of Super Bowls that will be awarded for 2023 and later years (Tampa and Los Angeles are scheduled to host Super Bowls in 2021 and 2022 respectively) and is encouraged by the positive reaction to Houston as the host for the February game, which was widely acknowledged as one of the best in Super Bowl history.

"I actually had the pleasure of meeting (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell during the NFL draft (Houston plans to bid to host the draft), and he reiterated how remarkable Houston was and if he had his druthers he's come back sooner rather than later, but he can't make any promises," Waterman said during a press conference Thursday morning at Partnership Tower in downtown Houston.

Waterman acknowledged that the various "bathroom bills" in the current Texas legislature that restrict access for transgender persons could inhibit Houston's bid for another Super Bowl and other big sporting events.

"For sure, it's a concern, "Waterman said. "There's the (negative) perception that any bill that gets passed with 'bathroom' in it, so we're watching it closely and we're hopeful that our state leaders have heard our message. Visit Houston has been very vocal, along with our counterparts throughout the state, that this is not a necessary bill."

A report that the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee commissioned from the Pennsylvania-based market research company Rockport Analytics indicates $347 million in new net spending resulted from Super Bowl LI in the greater Houston area.

The report estimated that 150,000 visitors spent $428 million (not including the price of game tickets), and subtracted $90 million that would have been spent by travelers visiting Houston during that period if the Super Bowl had not been held here. A net ripple effect of spending added an additional $9 million to reach the $347 million figure.

While thrilled with the report, Houston Super Bowl Host Committee board chairman Ric Campo, listed other less-tangible factors from hosting the game. "If it was zero I would be absolutely happy and proud because it matters more to the community in the long term vision of what we're doing as Houstonians than the economic impact," he said.

Campo mentioned such positives as 1.3 million people who attended free events at Discovery Green during the 10-day period leading up the game; 5,000 media members "who mostly wrote great stories about Houston;" more than 6 billion social media impressions from the most-watched Super Bowl ever; and the more than $1 billion in investments made in Houston "that lasts longer than the legacy of the Super Bowl." He cited the new Marriott Marquis Houston hotel near Discovery Green and the renovated George R. Brown Convention Center as examples.

Waterman agreed that such improvements are a "game changer" in attracting conventions and business meetings. He noted that the visitors bureau brought 16 high-level convention planners to the Super Bowl, two-thirds of whom had never considered Houston for a convention or business meeting. "Ten of those customers have either booked with us since the Super Bowl or asked us to submit proposals for their annual meetings, " he said.

"We regularly get customers coming to Houston, saying they saw us shine during the Super Bowl and now they're interested in booking a meeting here. The biggest winner of the Super Bowl in our opinion was Houston."

Houston Super Bowl Host Committee CEO Sallie Sargent also noted that 10,000 volunteers served as Houston ambassadors, $4 million in grants were given to 78 Houston nonprofits by the charitable fund Touchdown Houston, a reading project created 5,100 personal libraries in underserved communities, 5,000 new trees were planted around the city by Trees for Houston, and a $6.2 million project has enhanced a two-mile stretch of Broadway corridor near Hobby Airport.

"So many of these things live on long after the game," she said.

Super Bowl visitors spent an average of $502 per day in Greater Houston, which is less than what visitors spent at the previous Super Bowl in the San Francisco area in 2016. Campo attributed the lower Super Bowl spending to Houston's affordability factor, with such costs as hotel and dining lower than other major U.S. cities.

The city and state of Texas actually made money on the Super Bowl, Campo said. The host committee reimbursed the city in advance for $5.5 million in addition costs estimated for additional police and fire protection, garbage pickup and other municipal services. The funds came from private donations.

And the state gained an additional $40 million from enhanced tax revenue from Super Bowl activities. A rebate of $25 million went back to the host committee, leaving a $15 million surplus for the state to distribute to municipalities, he said.