Tampa Bay makes best of Super Bowl week amid sour economy

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Anaja Brackett, center, runs with a football at the NFL Experience for Super Bowl LV Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

TAMPA, Fla. – There have been four previous Super Bowls in Tampa, some amid war and economic distress, but none have faced the challenges this year's event encounters because of the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout.

Tickets for Sunday's game are limited to about a third of the capacity of Raymond James Stadium. There will be no tailgating. While the usual fan festival and other side attractions are happening, masks and social distancing are required. Most player appearances will be remote.

Last year's pre-pandemic Super Bowl in the Miami area generated an estimated $572 million in new spending in the three main South Florida counties, according to that game's host committee. This year, the Tampa Bay region probably won't generate even half that, said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting.

The usual economic take for a Super Bowl is somewhere between $300 million and $500 million for the host regions, he said.

For example, large corporate and sponsor events will be limited if they are held at all, he said. Bars and restaurants are open but with some restrictions on seating and an emphasis on social distancing.

“A lot of things you associate with a Super Bowl aren't going to happen,” Snaith said. “That's going to have an impact economically. The circumstances put kind of a wet blanket on it.”

Tourist development tax collections in Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located, show the hit the area has taken during the pandemic. This is a tax on short-term rentals, such as hotels.

Before the pandemic, tax collections for sales in January to February were at an increase of about 30% in comparison to 2019 during the same time period, according to county data.