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Super Bowl planners have said that “more than a million visitors” will be in Minneapolis for the big game in less than two weeks. But most of them aren’t who you think.
The actual horde expected to descend on the Twin Cities from outside the state is closer to 125,000, according to estimates from Pennsylvania-based Rockport Analytics, which is working with the Super Bowl Host Committee. The “million” figure is meant to gauge attendees of Super Bowl-related events, many of whom will be Minnesotans.
“That million figure really references a million people that are going to be in the Twin Cities spending resources, enjoying Super Bowl activities, and reflects the energy that we’re going to see in the Twin Cities during the 10 days,” said Michael Howard, a spokesman for the Host Committee.
The game itself is the main event among many during Super Bowl week. Others include Super Bowl Live, a free festival on Nicollet Mall, the Super Bowl Experience at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and Radio Row at the Mall of America. “I would say Super Bowl Experience and Super Bowl Live in downtown Minneapolis are really the major hub … of activity for the Super Bowl,” Howard said.
For those counting, people attending two events would equal two visits under the Host Committee’s methodology.
Rockport, a market and economic research firm, has researched the economic impact of three of the last six Super Bowls. They estimate that 125,000 people will either travel from more than 50 miles away or stay overnight in a hotel or Airbnb-like room.
In Houston last year, the postgame estimate was closer to 150,000 visitors. Just over 64,000 of those had tickets to the game. Another 46,000 were “non-ticketed visitors,” and 30,000 were support staff from out of town.
“We’ll get close to 70,000 — somewhere in the range of 60,000 probably — out-of-town visitors that will hold tickets,” Rockport principal Jon Gray said of Minneapolis. “And then from what we’ve measured in past events there’s also a large number of people that come into town without tickets just to take in the events and all the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl.”
Some sports economists are skeptical of the numbers. Victor Matheson, a professor at College of the Holy Cross who specializes in sports economics, believes the one million visitors estimate relies on a lot of exaggeration or double-counting.
“That’s 13 Super Bowl-size events of people occurring in a short period,” Matheson said. “And that’s just not likely to happen, because there’s only so many people you can put in front of a concert, or in the NFL Experience, or in NFL Live, or any of these things.”
Howard said their estimate is based on past Super Bowls, such as the 1.3 million people who were estimated to have visited the Super Bowl festivities in Houston last year.
It will be easier to count heads at some events, Howard said, compared to others like Super Bowl Live where there will not be a strict entrance point to count attendees.
“There won’t be an absolute definitive number,” Howard said. “It will be an estimate about total visits.”
By contrast, the city’s tourism agency, Meet Minneapolis, estimated that about 41,000 athletes, coaches, and spectators were coming to the city for the USA Volleyball championships in 2017. And the agency said 121,000 people attended events at Target Field during the MLB All Star Game in 2014.