For New Jersey tourism leaders, the challenge of hosting a two-state Super Bowl next year only became more apparent after visiting New Orleans last week.
That held especially true for efforts to spread the economic impact across both sides of the Hudson River, said Jim Kirkos, chief of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce. But after meeting all week with both local merchants and businesses that entertained clients, he said, one of New Jersey's real opportunities became clear.
"When you're down here and you see how much corporate entertaining goes on, it's amazing, not only how much money is spent, but how much of it there really is," he said.
While Kirkos said "the natural attraction is certainly New York City," the Garden State can boost its impact by "showing people that it will be easy to get around from place to place" and by promoting its roster of restaurants, banquet halls and other venues well before Super Bowl week. After visiting the Big Easy, he said, he believes areas near MetLife Stadium will be especially attractive "as you get closer to game day, especially on Super Bowl Sunday."
"There are very unique opportunities for people to (entertain) in New Jersey and still allow people to venture into New York City to see Times Square, catch a show, see the World Trade Center site and so forth," he said. "And that really becomes an awareness thing for us."
Outside of working with the 2014 host committee, Kirkos said his group was on a fact-finding mission in New Orleans. That meant speaking to managers in "every restaurant and every facility that we went into" to learn about staffing levels, when companies booked their space and other key concerns for Super Bowl week.
To showcase the region's assets and guide local operators, the Meadowlands chamber and its tourism arm on May 22 will host the "The Big Game Experience," a convention that includes a trade show, tours of off-site venues and seminars on marketing. The group also hopes to attract corporate event planners who may be coordinating Super Bowl events.
Prior estimates have put the regional economic impact of the Super Bowl at $550 million, though planners have not said what New Jersey's share could be. Still, the state does have some evidence of the benefits of a regional sporting event: When Giants Stadium hosted seven World Cup games in June and July 1994, the state's sales tax revenue increased 3.5 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively, during the fiscal years that the games straddled.
Joseph Seneca, the Rutgers University economist who supplied the data, said the fiscal 1995 data was especially significant because of the three quarterfinal and semifinal games played in July. He cautioned the data offered only a "rough cursory look" that didn't account for other factors, but "it certainly looks like there's an impact."
In any event, Kirkos said, it's critical that New Jersey doesn't "sit back and just wait for the phone to ring, expecting business to come here."
"If we just expect that they're just going to walk the streets of Secaucus, East Rutherford, Morristown and Jersey City, that's not necessarily going to happen unless we let people know what there is to do," he said. "And it's got to be done in a very cohesive way and it's got to be done in a creative way."