Source: Adam Wilson

California, a state that maintains some of the strictest restrictions for Covid-19, will allow thousands of fans to gather together without masks or social distancing this Sunday, February 13 for Super Bowl LVI (56) between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, CA.

What will happen to COVID in CA on February 13th? Will it magically disappear for one day?

California has some of the most restrictive COVID rules and mandates in America. The state has distributed millions of N95 masks and most California public schools still have mask mandates.  California’s COVID restrictions are even stricter than what the CDC recommends.

So why is it suddenly okay to pack 70,240 people into the stands in the SoFi Stadium to watch a football game while thousands of small businesses in Los Angeles have been forced to close or continue to hang on by a thread thanks to California’s authoritarian COVID restrictions?

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Could it be the revenue a Super Bowl game generates for the host city?

The previous game in 2020 in South Florida — Super Bowl 54 — was forecast by accounting firm PwC to generate $218 million in direct spending.

Nola Agha, a professor of sports management at the University of San Francisco, estimates the economic effect from this year’s Super Bowl will be closer to $47 million.

Other events scheduled around the big game include a domino tournament, a cigar party, a cannabis tour, comedy shows and several watch parties, including a bash at the Abbey Food and Bar in West Hollywood that will have drink specials served by waiters dressed as referees.

“It feels like weekend after weekend the [spending] numbers are ticking up again,” said Todd Barnes, general manager of the trendy eatery frequented by Hollywood A-listers. “I think it’s going to be a big weekend.”

Organizers of Shaq’s Fun House, held annually around each Super Bowl weekend, say tickets are selling 30% faster than in the previous two years, and more than a dozen corporate sponsors have signed up to be part of the festivities. Prices for the event, which is limited to 5,000 people, began at $250 per person for advance sales and go as high as $1,300 for VIP tickets.

“I think people are ready to get back to business as usual,” said Joe Silberzweig, co-founder of Medium Rare, the company producing the event. “The Super Bowl is the best weekend to do that.”

Adam Burke, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, is also optimistic: “Based on what we are seeing, a lot of people are booking stays pre- and post-Super Bowl,” he said.

Burke pointed to an analysis by STR, a Tennessee-based hospitality data company, that projected daily hotel rates in L.A. during the Super Bowl weekend will reach an average of $445, the second-highest average for any Super Bowl — trailing only the $616 average nightly rate during Super Bowl 54 in South Florida.

While California has paused many of its heavy handed covid restrictions for the Super Bowl, its small businesses have paid a heavy toll due as a result of the pandemic.  A recent Yelp economic report found that Los Angeles was one of the cities hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with roughly 15,000 business closures since 2020 in Los Angeles County.

L.A.’s local team, the Rams, will play the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday. Although fewer visitors from out of town will be drawn to Los Angeles if the Rams move on to play in the Super Bowl, experts point out that SoFi Stadium, with 70,240 seats, is sold out already and many of the largest hotels are already fully booked, regardless of who plays on Super Bowl Sunday.