COLLEGE FOOTBALL : Economic Impact of Title Game Expected to Reach $75 Million


No calculator was needed to figure out the Fiesta Bowl’s economic impact 25 years ago, especially since 1971’s inaugural game featured the hometown team, Arizona State.

But the latest projection for the Fiesta’s Jan. 2 national championship matchup between No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Florida puts the economic impact at $75 million for the Phoenix metropolitan area.

That’s $30 million more than the Fiesta’s 1987 Penn State-Miami title game generated and $25 million more than the Notre Dame-West Virginia matchup of 1989.


“I look at the numbers and I’m just in awe,” said Ron Spellecy, vice president of sales and marketing for the Phoenix & Valley of the Sun Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s absolutely phenomenal what’s going to happen here during the month of January. We have the Fiesta Bowl and Super Bowl just 26 days apart.”

The economic impact of the NFL’s championship game is estimated at $187 million with 100,000 people expected in the Phoenix area from Jan. 19-28, booking nearly every available hotel and motel room in the state.

Most of the 35,000 available rooms in a 30-minute drive of the stadium also have been booked for the Fiesta Bowl.

The game at the 75,000-seat Sun Devil Stadium has been sold out since September and local scalpers are asking up to $1,000 per ticket.

Omaha travel agents say Nebraska fans by the thousands are shelling out $1,000 for a plane flight, hotel room and ticket to the Fiesta Bowl.

Nebraska and Florida received 12,500 tickets apiece, but Nebraska ticket manager Cindy Bell said her school could have sold at least 45,000 tickets if they were available.

“We played in the Fiesta Bowl six years ago and had 14,000 people at the game and it was nowhere near a national championship game,” Bell said.

Bill Holloway, Florida’s assistant athletic director for ticket operations, said “the demand for this ticket is the highest of any bowl game we’ve been in, simply because the supply is so limited.”

It’s Florida’s first trip to Tempe. Defending national champion Nebraska is 0-4 in the Fiesta Bowl--losing to Arizona State in 1975, to Michigan in 1986, to Florida State in 1988 and to Florida State again in 1990.

It’s the ninth time the nation’s top two ranked teams have met in a bowl game and the second time for the Fiesta, which paired No. 1 Miami against No. 2 Penn State on Jan. 2, 1987.

Thanks to the new bowl alliance and sponsorship from Frito-Lay, Inc., the Fiesta’s $13 million payout to each team makes it the richest postseason game in college football history. The previous best was $6.5 million last year by the Rose Bowl, which has since increased to $8.5 million per team.

The Fiesta’s payout was $2.4 million per team in 1987 and reached the $3 million mark in 1989.

“The payout for our first game back in 1971 was just over $168,000,” said attorney Don Meyers, one of the Fiesta Bowl’s founders.

“I remember negotiating our first stadium lease. It was for $4,500. Our first radio contract was for $500.”