Houston hopes to recoup millions for hosting College Football Playoff National Championship

Sunday, January 7, 2024
Houston hopes to recoup millions for hosting CFP Championship
13 Investigates who is footing the million-dollar bill for the College Football Playoff Championship.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Fans from across the U.S. will travel to Houston this week as the Michigan Wolverines and the Washington Huskies play in the College Football Playoff Championship.

Visitors are expected to spend big bucks on food, hotels, transportation, and more, but 13 Investigates wanted to know who is footing the bill for the event and what the City of Houston has to gain.

Chris Massey, Vice President of the Harris County and the Houston Sports Authority, said the event will cost their organization $17 to $19 million to host. That covers everything from hotel rooms for players and staffing at NRG Stadium to putting on free concerts and events to drum up excitement for the College Football Playoff Championship.

"It brings tons of economic value and opportunity," Massey, who is also president of the Houston Host Committee for the 2024 College Football Playoff, said. "We want, no matter who we talk to, whether it's a week, a month, a year past the championship game happening, that they have that fond memory and can say, 'I remember when the championship game was in Houston because,' and their because could be a number of different things. It could be because they volunteered, because their business got a contract to support some of the goods and services that are needed to pull off a mega event like this. It could be because they got to go see an awesome free concert for their favorite artists that they didn't have to pay for ... or they just got to have a great time at the fan fest."

Massey said the event is "self-funded" through fundraising and donations. Sponsorships, ticket sales, and event proceeds also help foot the million-dollar bill, along with tax money collected as part of the state's Event Trust Funds Program.

The program takes taxes collected during the event on things like beer sales and hotel booking and funnels it back to the host city or county.

When Houston hosted Super Bowl LI in 2017, the City of Houston got back more than $20 million from the state's Major Events Reimbursement Program.

The Super Bowl brought in 87,456 fans, with about 73% of them coming from out of state, according to an Economic Development & Transportation report from the governor's office.

Cities and counties only get reimbursement from those taxes if they provide attendance figures and a local economic jolt for inviting the event into town.

"It is a reimbursement process. We will host the event. We will certify the attendance based on the event and the people that came to town, hotel pickup reports, to make sure that we are getting that value from outside the state that's coming in and depositing tax dollars and our community locally and for the state," Massey said. "And then through a process of checks and balances, the state will review those expenses that we submit and then hopefully reimburse us for those values up to the limit of the fund."

State records show the Houston Sports Authority hopes to receive about $10.5 million in event-related taxes to offset the cost of hosting the College Football Playoff Championship this week.

Massey said he anticipates the direct economic impact of the event will be more than $200 million.

But, Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, is skeptical.

"It's probably closer to $20 million than $200 million, but again, both of those numbers are significantly north of zero."

Either way, Matheson said it's a win for the city.

"I wouldn't turn down a college championship," Matheson said. "I wouldn't build a new stadium in the hopes of being able to host one of them, but once you already have a stadium that you know you're on the hook for those mortgage payments for the foreseeable future, the more events you can put into that stadium, the better."

And even though the University of Texas didn't make it into the game this year, it actually might benefit the city's bottom because more out-of-state fans will be visiting and spending more money on hotel rooms.

"There's probably a bunch of unhappy Longhorns fans because they got knocked out in the semifinals, but actually, from an economic standpoint, that's actually the best possible outcome for Houston," he said. "Had Texas made the final game, you'd have a lot of locals going to that game ... and when locals go to the game instead of folks from outside of the city and outside of the state, that means less money from outside pouring into Houston."

For updates on this story, follow Kevin Ozebek on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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