Do Super Bowls have lasting economic impact?

A Super Bowl ticket is displayed outside Reliant Stadium Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004, in Houston. The New England Patriots will play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII Feb. 1, 2004 in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

February 8, 2011 3:20:39 AM PST
As the Super Bowl champion Packers are back home in Green Bay, north Texas is trying to recover from a Super Bowl week that started with horrendous weather and ended with those hundreds of missing seats.

It was a great game, but so was Houston's Super Bowl seven years ago. But what economic impact lasts years after a Super Bowl leaves town.

It was, for a week, a different city. We'd cleaned up downtown, sold out every hotel and put on a huge show for hundreds of thousands of tourists.

But seven years later, it's hard to figure out if anything remains of Houston's Super Bowl.

We'll show you the answer in a minute but Rene Saenz may have a better reason than most for forgetting. She moved in to her brand new home a few days before kickoff.

Hers was one of 38 Habitat for Humanity homes built in 38 days in advance of Houston's Super Bowl 38. And it just may be one of the few lasting concrete impacts of a Super Bowl in Houston.

Yes, METRO did rush to finish the first light rail line in advance of the Super Bowl and several downtown hotels opened just in time.

But in seven years, so much of the new business that sprung up then is gone now. And the predicted $330 million spending spree by Houston Super Bowl visitors, that -- experts tell us -- was likely way overblown.

"It's easy to flash a big multiplier at an exaggerated number and get some astronomical figure," Houston economist Barton Smith said.

Smith says it's likely Houston Super Bowl visitors spent about $100 million in town. It was really just a blip in Houston's economy that had no lasting financial impact.

But when New England beat Carolina inside reliant on February 1, 2004, it proved Houston could pull off a huge event without missing seats or huge flight cancellations or weather problems like we saw last week in Dallas.

And one success leads to others. This April Houston hosts the Final Four.

The Super Bowl likely changed Saenz's life more than it changed all of Houston.

It was, after all just a game. And even in Dallas the night after, theirs, too, is just a memory.