TAMPA, FLA.—While the true economic impact the Super Bowl has on a local economy is up for debate, there’s no denying a major tentpole event like that can bring beaucoup bucks to area businesses, especially those in the event industry.
Because of this, the NFL conducts a competitive bidding process among the cities that want to host the Super Bowl. The host committees and the league claim that the game can spur 300 to 500 million dollars of spending in a city. For example, in 2018, Super Bowl 52 brought in $450 million to Minneapolis, and the Metro Chamber of Commerce estimated that Atlanta’s Super Bowl windfall in 2019 was $400 million.
But what happens when local vendors are battling against a pandemic for Super Bowl business?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit at the beginning of last year, a year before this year’s Super Bowl LV was set to take place, Tampa-based Elite Events & Rentals was already coordinating with area event planners and bidding on potential work. “We were thinking we wouldn't have enough staff to do what we had to do,” explained Brandon Ahlgren, owner of Elite Events & Rentals, which had handled similar big events in the past including the NHL All-Star Game and the College Football Playoff National Championship.
But then the pandemic took hold and the work orders were paused and eventually canceled, forcing Elite Events to cut staff rather than hire more employees. Interestingly, Super Bowl 55 wasn’t even supposed to be in Tampa. It was originally awarded to Los Angeles, but construction delays on the city’s new stadium forced the NFL to move the game to Florida. (Super Bowl 56 is set to take place at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.)
That move turned out to be somewhat fortuitous in a way, in spite of the impact of the pandemic. The hometown team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ended up playing the Kansas City Chiefs in the big game (and winning), making history as the first team ever to play at their home stadium—Raymond James Stadium.
“As soon as they won to go to the Super Bowl, I texted my staff and said, ‘Buckle up, boys, it's going to be busy,’” Ahlgren recounted, adding that he immediately started receiving rental inquiries from local businesses, many of which were looking to host watch parties and extend outdoor seating. In-demand items included tents, tables and chairs, flooring, carpets, lighting, ropes and stanchions, and cooking equipment and grills.
“We were glad that the state allowed us to host the Super Bowl, we’re glad the mayor allowed it, and then the Bucs going increased our business significantly because it wasn't just the Super Bowl coming to town, it was we’re going to the Super Bowl,” Ahlgren said.
He estimates that without the COVID-19 restrictions, the rental company might have brought in over half a million dollars or more. “We would have had a tremendous amount of more work. We didn't get anywhere near what we could have had, but we were very happy with what we got because of the situation.”
In addition to supplying Super Bowl-related events, Elite Events & Rentals was also called upon to help outfit the Buccaneers' training facilities with an extended workout room, outdoor showers, and meeting and lunch rooms in August 2020. Now, the rental company is providing similar outdoor facilities for Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies as the team begins spring training in Clearwater, Fla.