Fan Money Talks, But Which Teams Speak Loudest for Super Bowl?

Times Staff Writer

OK. Each of us has our favorite team, whether you're talkin' Big Bad Bears(Chicago) or Luv 'Ya Blue(Houston). But who's San Diego's favorite team? Well, why did San Diego want to have this Super Bowl game, anyway?

You got it. Let's talk bucks.

No matter "how you cut it," the Super Bowl represents an economic windfall to the city playing host to it, said Jim Steeg, head of special events for the National Football League. The game is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 31, at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

But fans of some teams may wield fatter pocketbooks than fans of other teams. Would a good ol' boy oil baron from Houston spend more money in Mission Valley than, say, a middle-aged Lutheran from "Prairie Home Companion" country in Minnesota?

'Skins May Be Best

Steeg speculated that an appearance by the Washington Redskins might mean the most money of all to San Diego, at least in the long run.

"The National Restaurant Assn., the National Automobile Dealers Assn. and other such groups all live in Washington and root for the Redskins," Steeg said. "They all have conventions. So, chances are they'll come to the game, look around and say, 'Hey, this is really a nice place--let's have a convention!' "

Steeg said the timing "might be perfect" because the San Diego Convention Center is scheduled to open less than a year from now.

He said the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Oilers represent "unknown quantities" as candidates because Indianapolis "hasn't had a team for that long" and the Oilers' owner recently threatened to move the team to Jacksonville, Fla. The Oilers had trouble selling out the Astrodome for Sunday's wild-card playoff victory over Seattle.

Browns Mean Big Bucks

Steeg said the Cleveland Browns would almost surely mean big bucks to San Diego--maybe more than the $145 million the game is forecast to bring to local coffers.

"Those fans are crazy," he said with a laugh. "My father-in-law lives there; I know. They're really gung-ho, and of course, they've never been to a Super Bowl. They'll go nuts. In a place like that, everybody jumps on the bandwagon."

Jack Teele, a spokesman for the executive committee of the San Diego Super Bowl Task Force, guessed that a Denver Broncos-Chicago Bears match-up would mean the most to the city in terms of dollars.

"First of all, let me say there won't be an appreciable difference with any teams," Teele said. "The Super Bowl is a bonanza, no matter what. But I was around Chicago's fans when their team played in New Orleans a couple of years ago (in Super Bowl XX). They're loud, boisterous and aimin' to spend money.

Longer Stay Possible

"They were going just as strong at 4 a.m. as they were at 6 p.m. Also, since it's so darn cold in Chicago, Indianapolis and Cleveland, maybe fans from those cities will stay longer, taking up hotel rooms for longer stays.

"Denver fans are great for following the Broncos. Denver's gonna be a hot draw, no matter who the other team is. They'll spend tons of money, stay a long time, and of course, the Rockies aren't far away."

Martin Astengo, general manager of the Hyatt Islandia hotel, headquarters for the National Football Conference champion, said the only teams he had dreaded seeing were the San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders. Local or regional teams would have meant $25 million less spent in the city, according to a 1986 study of the economic impact of the game on San Diego.

Astengo said fans from Chicago, Washington and San Francisco have "fairly liberal pocketbooks" and would represent a windfall for the Hyatt Islandia. He did not have as clear a sense of what the Minnesota Vikings might mean to his hotel.

"But you saw how Minnesota fans were during the World Series," he said hopefully. "I couldn't imagine a group being more enthusiastic. So who knows?"

From a television standpoint, Don Lundy, program director for KGTV (Channel 10), said the Chicago Bears would generate by far the most excitement among network executives. ABC, for which KGTV is the local affiliate, is televising this year's game.

"It's a huge event, no matter what," Lundy said. "The ratings will be there, no matter what. But the networks love New York, Los Angeles and Chicago because of their size.

"San Francisco is good for the networks--it's a large television market, if not a major one. Denver is not a large market, but talk about a faithful one . . . It has very large share levels.

"But the networks don't get really enthusiastic unless you're talking one of the three major cities. It's like the World Series, when St. Louis played Kansas City. What a terrific Series, but who cared outside Missouri?

"Of course, this is different from most games. People from all over can procure tickets and then show up. If a guy from Florida gets tickets, chances are he'll be here. And no matter where they're from, folks are gonna spend money. Lots of it."

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