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Does ‘economic impact’ mean anything to you?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Maybe you should buy a house.

Maybe a car.

Why, maybe you should buy jewelry and clothes and take a trip to Europe. Maybe you should invest in diamond mines.

After all, another big event is coming to Tampa, and who knows how we should split up the bounty.

Oh, not to go all bah-humbug on you, but I always am amused at the size the figures that big sporting events like to throw around at the communities that host them. It’s as if we have all struck it rich.

For instance, this week’s coming of the women’s Final Four to Tampa is supposed to be a financial boon for the city. Those who throw around big numbers for a living will tell that it’s going to bring in more than $19 million for the three-day event.

Of course, that pales in comparison with some events. The recent Super Bowl in Phoenix, for instance, was supposed to bring in $500 million, a figure that seems to be invented out of thin air. To get to that number, 100,000 visitors would have to spend $5,000 each.

Not counting, of course, the out-of-pocket money that Warren Sapp spent.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a cache to bringing in a big-time event. People still talk about the Super Bowls held in Tampa, or the Final Four that was held in St. Petersburg or the Stanley Cup that was captured by the Lightning in St. Petersburg. We can still remember playoff games and regionals and golf tournaments.

For a tourism state, what could be better than having the local dateline mentioned in newspapers across the country? Or than having it mentioned on ESPN hourly?

But I grow numb when people talk about all the money that will flood into an area as if it  can now pave roads and build schools. It doesn’t work that way.

Say you want to go to another city to watch a Super Bowl. You spend most of your money on hotels. You spend some on restaurants. Maybe a cab here and there. And most of that money seems earmarked for corporate headquarters.

How, exactly, does a school teacher get in on this economic impact? How does a barber? A construction worker?

Hey, I’m a sportswriter. I understand the value of a big game coming to town. It’s certainly better than having it played, say, in Minneapolis. It’s fun. It’s interesting to see what celebrities show up.

But, no, most of our lives aren’t better off because of the sporting events that have been here.

Again, I like that the women’s Final Four is here. I would love for Tampa to get back into the Super Bowl rotation. I like big games. There is a richness to hosting them.

I just don’t think of how much wealthier the team is going to be when it’s done.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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