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A question of economic impact: What if Cardinals make Glendale’s Super Bowl?

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PHOENIX – Come February, thousands upon thousands of fans and their wallets will flock to the Valley for Super Bowl XLIX and activities surrounding it, buying hotel rooms, meals and more in the process.

But what becomes of the estimated $600 million economic impact from all of those visitors if the Super Bowl becomes a home game for the Arizona Cardinals, whose fans don’t necessarily have to travel?

With the team at 3-0, the postseason certainly is a possibility. And a trip to the Super Bowl would make the Cardinals the first team to play the big game in its home stadium. The closest has been the San Francisco 49ers, who played Super Bowl XIX in Stanford Stadium.

Ray Artigue, founder and president of sports marketing firm the Artigue Agency, said having the Cardinals in Glendale’s Super Bowl could significantly cut into the game’s economic impact locally. If only half the fans have travel expenses, he said the area likely would see less spending.

“When you look at the fact that the great majority of those attending the game are the fans from the two participating teams, in this case you would lose a lot of that visitation because only one team would be bringing their fan base with them,” he said.

However, Artigue said it’s hard to predict the economic outcome of an event like the Super Bowl, especially when there are so many other factors at work.

An Arizona State University study commissioned by the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee found that the 2008 Super Bowl in Glendale, featuring the victorious New York Giants versus the New England Patriots, attracted 91,000 out-of-state visitors who spent an estimated $218 million here. The study pegged the direct and indirect economic impact of that game at $500 million.

Anthony J. Evans, a senior research fellow with the L. William Seidman Research Institute at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business, said if the Cardinals make the 2015 Super Bowl the Valley’s food and drink industry would be at the mercy of fans, since their eating expenses would boom just on game day.

“Restaurants and bars would be packed for approximately 24 hours,” Evans said. “But if you have an outside team, those locations will see far more business over a four-day span.”

Fans attending the game will be the biggest influence on the economic impact of Super Bowl XLIX, the two said. If the Cardinals are on the ticket, they said, Valley fans could still contribute significantly.

“There could be two weeks of excitement, if not hysteria, that leads to mass spending versus when most of the visitors get here, which is Wednesday or Thursday of Super Bowl week,” Artigue said.

Artigue also emphasized the importance of the Super Bowl as a weeklong event; Cardinals fans could increase the Super Bowl’s economic impact by participating in events.

“The Super Bowl (NFL) Experience, the boulevard in downtown Phoenix, the Taste of the NFL, the ESPN Fanfest … the fan base and the general community would be electric in their interest and enthusiasm,” he said. “Attendance and spending should be at a very high level, a higher level than normal.”

Gregory Walsh, director of marketing and communications for the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, said even if Valley fans didn’t wind up with tickets to a Super Bowl that includes the Cardinals they’d be spending money as close to the stadium as possible.

“More people will be excited,” he said. “Local people will want to be around, so many local places will see attendance.”

“We’d see a large boom in our community,” he added.

Artigue said the most important thing to consider about Super Bowl XLIX is the benefit to Arizona’s economy beyond a direct and indirect impact he expects to approach $600 million.

“The combination and the media impact around the world, those things combine to create a ripple effect for years to come in terms of growing our community and our economy,” he said.