Super Bowl parties back in style despite weak economy

Parties are back in style at the Super Bowl this year after cutbacks in a weak economy curtailed last year’s social scene and despite the ongoing earthquake tragedy 1,000 kilometers away in Haiti.

More than 150,000 visitors are expected to come to South Florida over the next week in connection with the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts meeting in Super Bowl 44 on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.

“The parties are back and there is no question about it,” said Nicki Grossman, president of the greater Fort Lauderdale convention and visitors bureau.

“We found that out very quickly when our venues starting filling up. Some of the organizations that cancelled parties in the past are throwing them this year.

“Parties are not a problem this time around. The economy may take a holiday this week.”

That’s good news for the regional economy, which was boosted by 463 million dollars from the 2006 Super Bowl, although that estimate includes debated pass-around rate estimates for visitor dollars entering the community.

Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Super Bowl 44 host committee, said that last year’s Super Bowl in Tampa was hit harder by economic hardships than this year’s game will suffer, including a major dropoff in the party scene.

“Tampa received the brunt of the economic (downturn) impact,” Barreto said. “A lot of the parties that were cancelled in Tampa are back.”

Some corporate parties did not return because of how firms feared they would be perceived lavishing treats for guests with 10 percent US unemployment, but Barreto said other companies moved to throw bashes of their own.

“A lot of people said they don’t want the attention. A lot of companies have been singled out as excessive partiers,” he said. “Some others saw an opportunity and stepped up to fill in the gaps.”

“This is corporate America at its best. They are here and they are hosting and entertaining their clients. It’s about the world’s largest game played on the world’s largest stage. There really is no expense when it comes to that.”

A beach party Saturday as well as the annual Taste of the NFL will feature the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies.

From big hotels to small inns and all manner of restaurants and snack shops, visitors are spending to be part of the Super Bowl scene.

“There’s a lot to be earned for small businesses from hosting a Super Bowl,” Grossman said. “It’s mainly that sense of ease in hospitality that the Super Bowl and their guests want to feel.