Get your economic projection brackets ready

The Final Four will be played in Houston this year, and you know what that means.

The NCAA’s estimate for economic activity in Houston puts the total to be spent during the Final Four at $60 million, while the Greater Houston Partnership estimates that total will exceed $105 million.

And businesses from hotels and taxi services to restaurants and street vendors are preparing to welcome the surge of visitors expected to fill Reliant Stadium for three games, each packed with 76,500 fans.

“I’ve been hearing that it’s almost like the Super Bowl,” said Sophia In, who sells parking at her Shipley Do-Nuts location near Reliant Stadium.

As long as you don’t mean Super Bowl LXV, I hope. The last thing we need here is an ice storm.

“I believe that this event, in terms of the direct expenditure, is going to be better than the Super Bowl of 2004,” [Greg Ortale, chief executive officer of the Greater Houston Partnership] declared.

With the attendance per Final Four game equaling that of the Super Bowl of 2004, the thee games will bring more spending from fans who likely will stay in Houston for much of the five-day event, he said.

The Texas comptroller’s office anticipates the Final Four in Houston will generate $11.7 million in tax revenues. The NCAA Regional Final in Houston last year generated $5.7 million in tax revenue over a 30-day period.

We have some actual numbers to play with, so let’s see what they mean. Last year at this time, when Houston was set to host a regional final, we learned the following:

Houston and Reliant Stadium last hosted an NCAA regional in 2008, employing the “mid-field” court configuration and elevated seating systems that now serve as the model for all Final Fours. The attendance then was similar to Friday’s.

“We were north of 38 (million dollars),” Ortale said. “We verified it through a third party, and we think it’s a conservative estimate. We prefer to err on the side of being conservative instead of overstating.”

Let’s assume the $38 million figure was accurate, and that we got the same amount of activity last year. Using those assumptions, and the assumption that the ratio of economic activity dollars to tax revenue dollars remains constant, the Comptroller’s tax revenue projections equate to $78 million in economic activity. Which falls right between the NCAA’s number and the GHP’s, so everyone is being consistent. I still think there’s a nontrivial amount of voodoo in these calculations, but at least there’s nothing obviously ridiculous. We’ll see how it all turns out.

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