Every year, the Super Bowl brings with it inflated claims about economic impact that set dollar signs dancing in the minds of politicians, restaurateurs, and Convention & Visitors Bureaus nationwide. Surely, they think, if we had a big, fancy, shiny stadium, we would reap that economic bounty.
But alas, the Super Bowl-fueled boom doesnt materialize. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported economic impact estimates from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of $400 million, $187.46-$197.59 million from the Super Bowl Host Committee, and substantially lower estimates from sports economists (Victor Matheson: $30-$100 million, JC Bradbury: $40 million, Andrew Zimbalist: $0-$40 million).
Its not a particularly good return on a massive investment of government funds, but resource-wasting public works are par for the course. The icing on the cake was the $23 million pedestrian bridge that was deemed a security risk and...closed to everyone except credentialed staff and media.
Well, the story isnt that bad. As the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported, a city spokesperson said that while people would not be allowed to use the bridge to get to the game, they would be allowed to use the bridge to leave. So thats something, at least.
$23 million for a bridge people could only use in one direction on the day of the Big Game is a lot of money, though. It got me wondering about other, cheaper and more effective municipal economic development endeavors.
Then it hit me. Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on private playgrounds for the rich and powerful, cities should just take whatever they want to spend on the stadium, cut reduce that amount by half, use the remaining amount to buy one-dollar bills, and then set them on fire. If they want more paper fuel, they can buy a currency that has been hyperinflated to worthlessness like the Venezuelan Bolivar.
A money fire would be a development winner all around. First, it wouldnt require as much money. Second, and even better, it would consume far fewer real resources like steel, concrete, plastic, and so on that, instead of going to build giant and fancy stadiums could be used for houses, office buildings, and all sorts of other things. And I suspect a lot of people for many miles around would be interested in gathering around to take in the awesome spectacle of watching tens of millions of dollars burn. Third, theres a redistributive effect from the city to the people who hold money. Burning tens of millions of dollars would reduce the price level, even if only slightly, and make everyones dollars (or Bolivars) worth just a little bit more.
So as we watch the Patriots and the Rams duke it out in the big game, we shouldnt envy the cities that have poured so much money into the stadiums that host glitzy and glamorous events. Our cities leaders would do far more good for us if they said no to stadium subsidies and yes to money fires.
You might remember this old video from The Onion: