NFL Cheap on Super Bowl Community Benefits

Community Organizing Ideas and Issues

New Orleans     We love having the Super Bowl in New Orleans.  Another one is coming in a year – 2013!  I read with interest a story in the Times about Indianapolis this year with an alluring headline, “Unexpected Benefits from a Super Bowl Bid.”  On first reading I lapped up the article’s spin on the NFL’s largesse and it’s multiplier impact on the lower income Near Eastside neighborhood.  Re-reading, it is clearer that the NFL chumped ‘em, and yet another argument for why we need to push more aggressively for community benefit agreements (CBAs) in such low-and-moderate income areas, and not just for the business boosters and developer class.

The NFL donates a million dollars towards a community center with a matching requirement to every Super Bowl city to be built in impoverished neighborhoods.   Believe me, I’m Google searching now to see exactly where that million dollars was spent in 1997 and 2002, the last times they were in the city, and what the plans are for next year!

Frankly, a million from the NFL is chump change when one thinks about the fact that it’s close to a $9 Billion dollar business and collects all of the ticket and concession sales at the venue for the game (estimated at more than $200 Million!) and beaucoup from the TV rights.  The Near Eastside in Indy will end up with something called the Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center.  For the same $1M Chase (JP Morgan Chase bank) leveraged $4 M in new market credits from HUD and ended up with “naming” rights obviously.

I could reread the article a dozen times and have trouble finding any evidence of how much the community and its residents really had to say about any of this?  Were there jobs for them?  Were there decent wages and benefits?  Yes, there are stories about housing improvements, and praise to these folks, but there was no sign of guarantees of new housing units that came from this massive economic enterprise hitting Indianapolis, and that’s one of the reasons why CBA’s are negotiated!

The NFL rewards the construction of new stadiums with a Super Bowl and Dallas last year and Indianapolis this year are part of that package.   Stadium construction is often a wildly controversial public expenditure of cash and bonding capacity, and none should be approved without community benefit agreements.  This story is a trip to lollipop land without much indication that the community got anywhere near what it should and could have extracted from the overall development and the Super Bowl investments.

The NFL and its 99% owners need to put up more and play a better role in making sure the whole community benefits and not just the wannabes, hoteliers, and developers.  The NFL stepped up for New Orleans after Katrina.  2013 is an opportunity to see a lot more happen here and set the model for the future.