The Super Bowl Does Nothing For Taxpayers

January 26, 2016, 3:00 PM UTC
NFL: Preseason-Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers
August 17, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; General view of Levi's Stadium during the first quarter between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports - RTR42QWB
Photograph by Kyle Terada — USA Today Sports/Reuters

Taxpayers have spent some $17 billion since 1986 on new football stadiums—and Levi’s Stadium, home of Super Bowl 50, is among the most expensive of the bunch. The Santa Clara, Calif., coliseum, equipped with the latest in luxury boxes, artisanal concession stands and Internet-of-Everything connectivity, cost about $1.3 billion, with as much of $200 million of that coming from Santa Clara taxpayers. But while Super Bowls infuse their host cities with cash, they also generate expenses (think fire and police protection).

MAC.02.01.16 illo.Superbowl Illustration by Martin Laksman

That, in turn, makes it hard for the host cities’ taxpayers to recoup those generous subsidies. Case in point: The city of Glendale, Ariz., host of last year’s Super Bowl, recently reported a net profit of $13,000 from the game—about 18¢ per fan in attendance.


A version of this article appears in the February 1, 2016 issue of Fortune.