San Jose Looks at Lessons Learned from Super Bowl 50

When Super Bowl 50 packed up and left, the conversation centered not so much on the Big Game but how the Bay Area handled the cavalcade.

Predictions of hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact and extra revenue for local businesses usually turn out to be overly optimistic.

San Francisco spent $4.8 million on city services to entertain its share of the nine-day event. But at least the Mission City at least gets reimbursed for the $3.6 million it shelled out to host the Super Bowl.

To national media covering the event, San Jose sometimes seemed an afterthought. But the city put a fair amount of effort into the event—hosting the Super Bowl media night at SAP Center and handling hotel security for the Carolina Panthers—and reported some modest returns.

On Tuesday, the City Council will look at how San Jose dealt with Super Bowl 50 and how it could apply some of those lessons moving forward. Conspicuously absent from the memo is a total of how much money the city spent on Super Bowl-related events and police overtime and how much it recouped.

“The Carolina Panthers, their families and friends, and corporate sponsors had a positive experience in downtown and the social media coverage was significant,” Kim Walesh, who heads San Jose’s Office of Economic Development, wrote in her report.

In the week leading up to the Big Game, San Jose hosted six Super Bowl-related events. About 8,000 visitors flocked to SoFA’s two-day Winter Market, which hosted artists, musicians and craft exhibits in the city’s arts district. The downtown ice rink, which normally closes shortly after the holidays, stayed open through game week, which helped break attendance records.

The Guadalupe Park 10k and 5k River Run took place on gameday and drew about 550 runners. Cesar Chavez Park turned into an outdoor café and beer garden, where about 30,000 people came for the live music, fire pits, an information center and a mini football field.

Along San Pedro Square Market, the city closed a street to car traffic to turn it into a football hub covered with turf, tailgate games and a craft fair. Across from SAP Center, the city spruced up the arena green with lit-up palm trees, musical acts and carousel rides for opening night. Walesh noted that this is the first time the game’s media day was televised in prime time.

More than 18,000 passengers enplaned at Mineta San Jose International Airport during Super Bowl week. That’s about 6 percent more than usual, according to the city.

The NFL divvied up $1.8 million in charitable grants to 21 organizations in San Jose. San Jose was the only city with a booth inside Super Bowl City, Walesh added. Volunteers put nearly 3,600 hours into San Jose’s events the week of the game.

Hotel occupancy was lower than expected, though average daily rates soared for the week. The city taxes hotel stays but has yet to tally the revenue gained for the full week.

Of course, while the game drew a crush of visitors to the region, expected traffic and crowding kept a lot of locals home. Some office workers arranged to telecommute that week, which offset patronage to local businesses, according to some news reports. Meanwhile, activists kept a close eye on San Jose and surrounding cities to make sure the regional bid to put the best face forward didn't mean shuffling off homeless people into unseen corners of town.

Aside from hosting attendant festivities, San Jose sprung some cash on scrubbing graffiti, taking part in a regional crackdown on human trafficking and prostitution, lit up and trimmed more trees and cleaned up the storm drains.

The San Jose Police Department budgeted $1.25 million on overtime for human trafficking enforcement; the Fire Department, $70,000. Undercover stings at local hotels and the prostitution track along Monterey Highway resulted in 10 prostitute arrests, seven john arrests and the rescue of one underage trafficking victim, according to police.

“The focus on using the Super Bowl to make a positive impression by making targeted improvements with lasting value and to look at our city from the eyes of a first-time or infrequent visitor was a solid approach,” Walesh wrote in her council report.

San Jose could use a similar approach for upcoming events, she said, including the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in July and the 2019 College Football Championships.

This article has been updated.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for April 12, 2016:

  • San Jose’s struggling to create a “there there” in its north business district, according to Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members Manh Nguyen and Raul Peralez. They conclude that’s partly due to development fees to offset traffic impacts and a dearth of shops and other destinations.
  • It will cost about $2.9 million to upgrade San Jose libraries’ anti-theft barcodes with microchips. Radio-frequency microchips will allow library clerks to check out several items at once and give them greater control over inventory, which has been a problem as evidenced by the $6.8 million in late fees racked up by cardholders.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. RICH ROBINSON Jan 7, 2016 @ 10:53 am
    A million people are coming to the Bay Area to spend money–and they will spend a ton of it on our local businesses. It will be the biggest economic boon to the region. Are we really going to whine at spending a few nickels for this opportunity. Because New Orleans, Miami, Houston, and every other NFL City in the nation would love to have this “problem”. Are we that myopic?


    I see why you are a PR guy, glass is never half empty. Show me the ton of money spent on our local businesses now!

      • The city pays over 20 million in OT a year for the PD because they cannot get any new recruits and only have 800 able bodied officers working the streets. They now make all detectives work mandatory OT in patrol. So much for follow up on unsolved cases.

  2. “Hotel occupancy was lower than expected”

    Need any more be said? Despite its fake smile, tight girdle, and desperation-driven makeover, San Jose’s big night out came and went without a single invite to dance.

  3. I work in downtown San Jose… San Jose dropped the ball on this. All the money was made in San Francisco. Enuff Said

  4. It was not San Jose’s big night. It was Santa Clara’s and San Francisco’s. Get over it San Jose. As much as you tried to be in the spotlight you were not. What did they survey reveal last month San Jose? What, who, I don’t remember I was even in San Jose. Something like that. Even Milpitas probably did better than you. At least the president stays there

  5. This is an excellent article, and particularly the focus on the lessons learned from Super Bowl 50. It is weirdly ironic that the school districts have not done something similar regarding the lessons learned from the collapse of No Child Left Behind. Even the fire-breathing dragon known as The Mercury News never called for such an event.

    This article would benefit from revealing the names of the San Jose groups among with the NFL divided up $1.8 million. Please reveal the names of these charitable groups.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *