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Inflation Already Ruined Your Super Bowl Party

Authored by Peter Earle via The American Institute for Economic Research,

Attending the Super Bowl in person has long been a lavish expense, reserved for those willing to part with a significant sum for the ultimate fan experience. But when the Kansas City Chiefs meet the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas on Sunday, February 11 for the 58th such championship, it will be the most expensive yet.

Stubhub is reporting tickets ranging from $5,300 to $107,000, with the average price paid around $9,500.

(Ticketmaster and other estimates vary slightly.)

That is a 93 percent increase in ticket prices from last year’s Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona, and 300 percent over the past ten years.

Lodging prices are skyrocketing as well. 

A week out from kickoff, rooms at five-star hotels like the Bellagio, Aria, and The Venetian started at $1,500 or more per night for Super Bowl weekend, according to Expedia.

Travelers seeking an affordable stay on the Las Vegas Strip, such as at Excalibur, can find an average nightly rate of $88 on Priceline for this weekend. That jumps to $486 during Super Bowl weekend, an increase of 426 percent. Prices do dip a bit if Super Bowl fans want to stay away from the Strip’s hotels and casinos. Downtown and hotels away from the main drag do offer some cheaper options, with some hotels charging around $200 per night on Fremont Street. Circa, which contains one of the most popular sportsbooks in Las Vegas, is an exception. Rooms this weekend are going for $179 per night on Priceline. That shoots up to $1,232 per night, with only a few rooms remaining at that price, for Super Bowl weekend. 

And then, of course, there are the costs of getting there and subsisting. Intrepid drivers looking to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles (a trip of between 8 and 9 hours) will do so with gasoline prices at $3.66/gallon. That’s down markedly from the mid-2022 spike, but still vastly above levels before the pandemic. Like hotel and ticket prices, airfare into and out of Las Vegas around the big game has also vaulted in price, although a number of carriers have increased capacity to meet surging demand.

Celebrating at Home

Of course, the vast majority of Super Bowl LVIII viewers will not be in Allegiant Stadium, which holds 65,000 spectators. The remainder of viewers, averaging north of 100 million people, will be watching at home or in their hometown sports bars and restaurants. But the persistent inflation of the past three years extended the financial burden into that seemingly more affordable alternative: hosting or attending Super Bowl parties at home. What was once a casual affair of chips, dips, and budget-friendly beverages has transformed into a costly endeavor, as the price of groceries, alcoholic beverages, and even party supplies have surged, affecting the way fans plan to experience one of America’s most iconic sporting events.  

The top Super Bowl snacks and dishes include chicken wings, guacamole, potato skins, and deviled eggs, so a look at the recent price trends in chicken, beef, pork, avocados, eggs, beans, potatoes, eggs and condiments is relevant. Pizza, alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks are other popular choices prices have been creeping up. 

Below are the prices of a handful of foodstuffs and ingredients which feature prominently in Super Bowl festivities,  as well as the price changes from the pre-pandemic period to the most recent data (December 2019 to December 2023).

The prices are provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Average Prices by Product series, not seasonally adjusted:

And although disinflation has proceeded, by their nature the various indices (Consumer Price Index, Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index) obscure individual price changes. For example: the US CPI Urban Consumers Food-at-Home index, in December 2023, showed a year-over-year change of 1.31 percent (from 299.089 to 303.005). Below are the actual December 2022 to December 2023 changes in individual food items which are prominent in Super Bowl celebrations.

Avocado prices, according to the Mexico Products CPI, have risen 27.2 percent from December 2019 (83.80) to December 2023 (106.554). From December 2022 (95.922) to December 2023, they rose 11.1 percent. 

Determining the average price of a delivery pizza is more difficult. In local contexts, the price of a slice of pizza can act as an inflationary benchmark of sorts, but estimates indicate that from February 2023 to February 2024 the price of an average delivery pizza has increased from $17.81 to $18.33, or 2.9 percent. 

Comparing these numbers with the year-over-year headline and core CPI numbers (3.4 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively), two significant insights emerge.

The individual price changes above, over a four- and one-year period, frequently underscore how price indices obscure trends in prices which, at specific times can be considerably graver than the headline figures suggest.

Second, that one needn’t be anywhere near Las Vegas to feel the damage of expansionary monetary policies acutely.

Well over a year after the lies about Vladimir Putin, gas station owners, ocean shippers, and corporate profits have been told and forgotten, and despite the cynical political impudence of calling a massive green spending bill an “Inflation Reduction Act,” spending Super Bowl Sunday at home in 2024 will be much more expensive than it was in 2023, and vastly more than it was four short years ago.

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