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Hopes high for Super Bowl effect

MANATEE — Patti Davis is already reaping the rewards of being within driving distance of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

People have booked rooms at her Harrington House Bed & Breakfast on Anna Maria Island for the Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa.

“Actually we have probably about four or five reservations right now from people reserving here and then driving up to the Super Bowl that day,” Davis says. “It’s not too far away. A lot of people want both — they want to go to the game as well as come back, relax on the sand and watch the sunset. It does add quite a bit to our business.”

But how much will it add to the local economy as a whole?

That depends on whom you ask.

Audit and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts the global economic downturn will put a pinch in spending in the Tampa Bay area during the Super Bowl.

The company forecasts visitors to the big game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers will spend $30 million less than the $180 million they would have spent on eating out, visiting attractions and staying in hotel rooms during normal times.

Despite people being more protective of their wallets, Dia Kuykendall, corporate communications manager with the state’s tourism agency Visit Florida, said the area will see a boost from game visitors.

“It’s a great opportunity, especially for the hotels and restaurants in the area and the surrounding areas to show tourists what they have to offer,” Kuykendall said. “Hopefully, if they come in a couple of days prior, they can take in other attractions and not just attend the Super Bowl.”

The event, which will be the fourth Super Bowl hosted in Tampa, also entices visitors to return to the area again, she said.

“We’re known to have repeat visitors (from past Super Bowls),” she said. “If people are coming to the Super Bowl, hopefully we can entice them with other attractions and they’ll come back and visit.”

The agency, however, does not have any figures that estimate the exact economic impact for Manatee County.

Some people are more skeptical about the true economic impact of the one-day event.

One of them is Philip Porter, a professor of economics at the University of South Florida in Tampa who has extensively studied the economic impacts of past Super Bowls and published a scholarly article on the topic in 1999.

Porter believes the only true beneficiaries are businesses like gentlemen’s clubs that cater to the predominant 18- to 60-year-old male crowd and large hotel chains that typically charge higher rates during the event and whose owners reside outside the area anyway.

“The local impact is absolutely zero,” Porter said.

“I like to say that the credit card is swiped in Tampa, but the money goes to the account of Paris Hilton, wherever she happens to be.”

Porter also argues that the Super Bowl has a displacement effect on other business that might otherwise be going on during the event.

“If you went to a Home Depot on Dale Mabry (in Tampa) during the Super Bowl, it would probably be empty,” Porter said. “The problem is, the 100,000 people who are here just replace the 100,000 people who would have been here anyway. And the other people are displaced by the higher prices the hotels charge. Some businesses are going to find a boost but other businesses are going to find a dearth of business.”

Even so, Nancy Engel, executive director of the Manatee Economic Development Council, believes the local area will benefit from the Super Bowl.

“Obviously I think there’s the potential of the spinoff,” Engel said. “We’re not that far from the (game) area that people will want to come to the beaches and make a vacation out of it, too.”

Although he isn’t planning to add additional staff during the event, Ed Chiles, owner of the Mar Vista, BeachHouse and Sandbar restaurants on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, believes that business may pick up during the Super Bowl.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Chiles said. “Fortunately we’ve had a really good start to ’09. Because of the way the weather was and the way the holidays fell, we got off to a tremendous start. I think what the Super Bowl does for us is exposes more people to our area. So I think we’ll see a little bump from it.”