If you didn't listen to Wednesday's edition of The Jason Fitz Show stop what you are doing and Click Here to catch up on some of my Super Bowl thoughts. I wanted to use this space today to pick up where we left off and give you some more thoughts on Phoenix and the Super Bowl experience.
I'm a lucky man, no doubt. This is my third consecutive year attending the Super Bowl experience, and my second straight year getting to sit in the stadium and soak in everything the Super Bowl has to offer. Once again, I was stunned at the number of die-hard fans sitting in the seats, but it begs the question: "How do they afford it?!?!?!"
Let me break down the economics from where I was sitting: My plane tickets to and from Nashville were around $400. The car that took me from the airport to the Super Bowl on the day of the game was $300, no joke. Had I elected to rent a car and park, parking within walking distance to the stadium was around $500.
The tickets in my area were running over $11,000 - PER SEAT - and were still being sold for over $10k at HALFTIME. Hotel rooms by the stadium were at least $500 per night.
To add it all up, the married couple sitting in front of me spent at least in the vicinity of $25,000 for two tickets, two flights, a few nights in the hotel and food. Speaking of food, a bucket of popcorn in the stadium set you back $15. Beer was $12 per bottle. Soda was $8. This is a moment built on wealth.
Part of what made Phoenix a difficult host city was the stadium location. University of Phoenix Online Stadium (that's a mouthful) is a 25-minute drive from the downtown area with no traffic. The day after the game, I had to return to the stadium to get my bag (I'll explain that story in a minute), and my cab ride was right around $100 total with zero traffic.
This is why New Orleans, the host city for my first Super Bowl, is able to put on a better Super Bowl experience. Everything in that city is walkable. I knew of friends staying by the stadium, and suggested they hit the NFL Experience, but because it was located downtown, it was impossible for them to check out. Conversely, Phoenix had a great little hang area by the stadium, and some people didn't even discover that until the day of the game because the stadium wasn't close enough to where they were staying.
You may have read interesting praise from the likes of former TJFS guests Adam Schefter and Peter King praising Phoenix as a host city, but the interesting side note is that they were all stationed in Scottsdale, which is a completely different part of the Phoenix area. The media friends I talked to that stayed at the media hotel downtown hated the experience from the city.
The layout prevented anyone from getting a complete Super Bowl experience, and when you are talking about couples spending $25,000 PLUS for a few days, shouldn't maximizing their ability to take in the entire experience be the ONLY focus of the host city and the NFL?!?!?!
And don't kid yourself: next year will be even worse. I've been to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, and it is AMAZING, but San Francisco is the host city - a full hour drive from the stadium. These are problems that the fans should cry out to get fixed.
Speaking of problems, let's talk about the biggest fail I had on game day. Because The Band Perry (my employer) had a show in Auburn the night before, I flew in the morning of the Super Bowl. As my luck would have it, fog was preventing planes from landing and our aircraft lacked the fuel to circle around for a few hours. As a result, we were diverted to Vegas to refuel and then flew back to Phoenix and finally landed hours after expected. Let that serve as a reminder anytime somebody says transportation for fans is the reason a cold city host is a bad idea. That's just an ignorant argument as my travel experience in Phoenix would attest.
The late flight started the domino effect of needing a car to get to the stadium ASAP ($300 later), and it dropped me over a mile from the stadium to avoid traffic. I only flew with my backpack, so the driver threw the bag at me and I literally ran to the entrance of the Tailgate Party that the NFL throws by invite only (yes, I'm dropping awesome there.)
I get to the gate at the stadium and can't get in. Why? My backpack. They offered me clear plastic bags in which to transfer my stuff, but I had a laptop in my bag, and that isn't allowed in at all. I saw women being forced to throw Gucci handbags away to get in. What's worse? I saw people being advised by security to simply hide their bags under parked cars. You want to talk security issue?!
It's INSANE to me that the NFL doesn't have a bag check available at the Super Bowl for these exact reasons. Bring in airport security-type scanners and allow fans to have their bags held for a fee. I easily would have paid $100 at that point to simply solve the problem. Thankfully, I have a friend that played for one of the acts playing the tailgate show and they were able to essentially sneak the bag in with their gear and hold it for me until the next day to pick it up.
All in all, the only thing that made Phoenix a great host was the weather. The stadium is bland and cold. The concessions people were slower than molasses. The layout made it impossible to see anything. The businesses didn't benefit the way they could have because fans were spread out all over the area. It all makes me wonder if the NFL is even bothering to ask fans about their thoughts and experiences in each Super Bowl. I've been to three, and I don't see a concerted effort to make improvements to the Super Bowl experience.
Maybe the NFL is banking that most people only come once so improvement isn't necessary. If that's the case, I'm dreading the San Francisco experience. Shuttles, busses, mass transit and thought toward making sure the best of the NFL experience is located in each hub around the bay area would be a huge step forward toward fixing the things that make the overall experience less than it should be.
Thanks for reading, and check out an all-new episode of The Jason Fitz Show on Wednesday.