Jan 24, 2023 - Politics

State fund helps with Super Bowl hosting costs

Illustration of a football in the shape of a dollar sign, sitting on a kickoff tee.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Hosting the Super Bowl gets pricier every time the big game comes to Arizona, but the state is covering some of this year's expenses.

What's happening: As part of the current fiscal year's budget, lawmakers and then-Gov. Doug Ducey created a Major Events Fund in 2022 that's controlled by the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA).

  • Besides funding major events, the fund can be used for providing grants to local organizing committees and paying for economic development activities associated with those events.
  • The state provides $7.5 million annually for the fund, which currently stands at $15 million.

State of play: The head of the ACA is responsible for issuing grants, but the nonprofit Major Events Host Committee was created to distribute the grant money.

  • The committee board includes Super Bowl Host Committee president and CEO Jay Parry and Arizona Cardinals owner and president Michael Bidwill.

Details: The ACA last month awarded its first grant when it gave $10 million to the Major Events Host Committee.

  • Parry tells Axios the money will go to the Super Bowl Host Committee to pay for expenses such as marketing, decor, media relations and stadium preparations.
  • The host committee had to commit to spending $45 million, and state law prohibits Major Events Fund grants from comprising over 25% of that obligation.
  • The rest is provided by private companies, Native American tribes and other entities.

Of note: Parry says the cost of hosting the Super Bowl has grown more competitive.

  • Arizona had to pledge only $12 million to $13 million for the 2008 Super Bowl, which increased to about $28 million for the 2015 event, she said.
  • She notes that Arizona competes with other states that have similar funds.

The intrigue: While the ACA is a government entity subject to public records law, it transfers the money to a private group, the Major Events Host Committee, which is not.

  • That means the nonprofit that's spending the money isn't legally obligated to disclose how it uses taxpayer dollars.
  • Yes, but: Parry and ACA spokesperson Patrick Ptak say the Major Events Fund will disclose how the money is spent by the Super Bowl Host Committee and future grant recipients.

Between the lines: There's a lot of overlap between the entities. ACA CEO Sandra Watson oversees the Major Events Fund while helping decide how the committee spends grant dollars, and the two host committees share some members.

  • Parry, who serves on both host committees, says there's benefit to having people who're familiar with government and business arenas involved in decisions, while Ptak says the legislation was written to facilitate such coordination.

What's next: The Major Events Host Committee will be an ongoing effort and oversee grants for other events like Final Fours and college football championships.


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