January 23, 2009 / 3:34 PM / 9 years ago

Flagging economy hampers the Super Bowl party scene

4 Min Read

<p>Fans wait for the start of Super Bowl XLII between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants in Glendale, Arizona, February 3, 2008.Rick Wilking</p>

TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - The U.S. economic downturn is putting a damper on the lavish party scene that has become an annual rite of passage during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

There will still be plenty of hype leading up to the February 1 affair between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers in Tampa but it may be little tame compared to other years.

The week before the game has been known for a myriad of private and public parties in the host city, many hosted by celebrities. A large number of corporations also entertain big clients before and during the game.

This year, however, several corporate sponsors including Sports Illustrated and Playboy magazines have canceled their parties and others are cutting back in the face of a deep recession and rising unemployment.

A study by audit and consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers released this week estimated direct spending for this year's Super Bowl would be $150 million, about $50 million less than was spent in Phoenix and Miami, sites of the last two games.

"Based on the number of this year's Super Bowl related events which have been canceled or where cutbacks have been announced, it is clear that businesses have found it difficult to ignore their more immediate operating uncertainties and investor demands -- even at the expense of one of America's most popular events," Robert Canton of PWC said in a statement.

Amanda Holt of the Tampa Super Bowl host committee countered that the Tampa area should get a $300 million economic boost when direct and indirect spending for their fourth hosting of the game is combined.

"This is huge economic boost for the area," Holt said.

She said the committee estimated that about 100,000 people were coming to the area for the game, even though Raymond James Stadium seats only 72,500.

Nearly 4,000 U.S. and foreign media are expected to cover the game, which will be broadcast around the world.

"We're really excited about it. There is something for everyone," Holt said.

The game will also provide millions of dollars worth of free advertising for the Tampa-St. Petersburg area on Florida's Gulf coast where tourism is by far the leading industry.

Still Partying

There will still be a number of major parties and events with one of the biggest held by Maxim men's magazine.

Actors Kevin Costner, Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy are all having separate parties before the game, as are rappers Snoop Dogg and Sean Combs.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will host the National Football League party next Friday night. The Taste of the NFL, featuring food prepared by chefs representing all 32 teams, will be held on Saturday in St. Petersburg.

The host committee has recruited thousands of volunteers to greet and help visitors and has also launched a campaign urging residents to be nice to out-of-town fans with the slogan: "Put on Your Game Face."

Most major hotels are sold out, but there are some rooms available. The Tampa and St. Petersburg airports are clearing space for hundreds of private and corporate jets and 10,000 cars are expected to be rented during the week.

Some Cardinals fans were dismayed when they tried to book flights after their team's victory over Philadelphia last week to find the fares for Phoenix-Tampa roundtrips during Super Bowl week had nearly tripled to over $2,000 from the week before.

This year's halftime will feature a performance by Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band. Jennifer Hudson will sing the National Anthem before the game and Faith Hill will perform "God Bless America."

Editing by Padraic Halpin

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