By Al Barbarino
New Jersey retailers are set to get a turbocharged boost heading into Super Bowl 2014.
Back in May of 2010, the $1.6 billion new MetLife Stadium was selected to host the 2014 Super Bowl.
Earlier this year, Formula One signed a 10-year franchise agreement to hold annual 3-day races in neighboring Weehawken, on a stretch of Boulevard East and River Road along the Hudson River’s west bank.
And in a $100 million deal, New York real estate big Jeff Gural, took over the Meadowlands Race Track with a promise to rejuvenate one of horse racing’s biggest stages.
The big-time sporting events, and the masses that follow them, will give a big boost to existing retailers, attract pop-up retailers and have a long-lasting impact, some local real estate officials said.
“This is going to create a great buzz, interest and exposure,” said Chuck Lanyard, president of The Goldstein Group, the New Jersey-based retail real estate brokerage representing 8 million s/f of retail space. “The good thing about these two events is that it’s going to help spotlight New Jersey and put it on people’s radar screens.”
Organizers have estimated that Super Bowl 2014 will generate approximately $550 million for the local economy. The Formula One race’s lead organizer, Leo Hindery, has said that the three-day event will generate an additional $100 million in economic activity.
Lanyard called the events “icing on the cake,” since New Jersey’s retail business is already in good shape and picking up quickly. Vacancy rates dipped below eight percent this year, compared to a 13.5 percent national average, according to data from The Goldstein Group.
Certain zip codes in Jersey have the highest retail sales numbers in the nation. Take the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, just north of the Meadowlands, which usually takes the number one or two spot, Lanyard said.
Retail corridors along highway routes have picked up particularly well, he added. National and large out-of-state retailers are already showing heightened interest. But it’s not just retail that will benefit; hotels, restaurants and taxi drivers will get a boost, too.
“Everyone benefits from this kind of exposure,” Lanyard said. “The commerce and the revenues that come out of this are really going to be good for Jersey for years to come because it’s going to give many of these retailers a really good boost to help them through the sometimes slower seasons.”
At a press conference following the announcement that Super Bowl 2014 would be held in New Jersey, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said “every day people will be watching what’s going on.”
“The events, the social events, the game preparation events – all the things that will put a great spotlight on all the things that are great about this state and about this region,” he added.
He’s also called the American Dream project “an extraordinary economic boost for this region and for our state,” saying that over 35,000 permanent jobs would be created once it’s completed.
To gauge the impacts that a major national or international sporting event can have on a city, a shining example is Super Bowl 2012, held in Indianapolis, Indiana, said Jeff Merritt, director of retail and office advisory services with Cushman & Wakefield/Summit Realty Group, based in Indiana.
Merritt was a volunteer with the organizing committee in Indianapolis that put together a “Super Bowl Village” downtown, blocking off six city blocks, with musicians rocking two stages and an 800-foot zip line giving visitors a bird’s eye view of downtown along with a quick thrill.
Between tents, temporarily-leased spaces (typically one-month) and other pop-up retailers, Merritt estimated that over 100 retailers set up shop in and around the Village, as malls, restaurants, parking lot owners and hotels took on “swarms of people.”
“The whole key to the successful effort was taking every single asset and putting our best-foot forward,” Merritt said. “It brought this city, not just retail, to a higher level.”
Beyond the major sales boost, the aesthetics of the city were transformed, creating long-lasting effects: vacant buildings were renovated by retailers looking to get in on the action, and the city streets took on a clean sheen, as volunteers worked around the clock to make things shine and help visitors feel at home.
“You can’t just put lipstick on the pig,” he said. “We had to do it the right way, and the city really shined because of it.”
But having a centralized location for the events, which is thus far not part of any announced plan for Super Bowl 2014, had its downside in Indianapolis, as the hopes of retailers outside the Village never panned out, Merritt said.
“Retailers in outlying areas were probably a little disappointed,” he said.
Michael Stone, a senior director with Cushman & Wakefield New York retail operations, believes Super Bowl 2014 will have a similar localized effect in New Jersey, confined mainly to boosting business for retailers in the American Dream supermall, which is set to be completed in the fall of 2013 and will be connected directly to Giants Stadium through a redeveloped train terminal.
“We’re really excited about the synergy of all these things happening at the same time,” Stone said. “The visibility of the Super Bowl and the national attraction of people and media attention will really put the American Dream project on the map.”
But, he added, there’s not a lot of retail surrounding the Meadowlands, which is rather isolated, and while events like the Super Bowl and the Formula One race will brings thousands of people into the area who will certainly go shopping, that’s only in addition to the “incredible amount of tourism that we already have.”