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Friday, April 07, 2017

Who Will Have Drawn More People to Philadelphia (Who Will Spend Money) -- the NFL or the Pope?

Silly question, right?

As popular as the NFL is in the US, the Pope has a bigger following.  As much as American football fans might dislike the notion, there are more football (read: soccer) fans who are Catholic than American football fans.  The math is not that hard.

The Pope came to Philadelphia about a year and a half ago.  The city spend so much time on advanced public relations and planning for safety that people were discouraged from coming.  And, if they came, they might not have stayed in the city proper, and they most certainly did not patronize an amazing restaurant community in Philadelphia.  The city just made it hard to get close to where the Pope was visiting and, if you don't agree with that comment, you have to agree with the notion that the city gave off the perception that it would be hard to move around.

Estimates were that 2 million of the faithful were going to descend upon Philadelphia; those dropped to 800,000, but then experts pointed out that the Benjamin Franklin Parkway would have had to be four times its size to accommodate that many worshippers   As it turned out, 142,000 attended the papal mass on a Sunday in September.

Now the city and NFL are predicting that 200,000 will attend the NFL draft and related festivities on a three-day weekend at the end of April.  Do the math -- that's 58,000 more than attended the papal mass.  Then again, the last time a pope visited Philadelphia was about 35 years earlier; the NFL hasn't held a draft in the Cradle of Liberty for over 60 years.  Advantage:  NFL.

Of course, estimates are just that, and the weather will affect the number of attendees.  Have great weather, possibly exceed the estimate.  Have a nor'easter or a rain storm and 50 degree temperatures with wind, and the number will be much lower. 

It seems like the city isn't over-communicating about the congestion the way it did for both the Papal visit and the Democratic convention.  Which means that people might actually decide to come.  Let's face it, the average NFL fan is much more likely to open up his wallet to partake of the local gourmet fare than the average pilgrim (where the visit was the thing, not tourism or dining) and the average Democrat (where politics were the priority and absent dinners at steakhouses to scratch others' backs, food also was an afterthought).  The NFL Draft Party or whatever they are calling it is different -- first and foremost, sports tourism and food will be a priority.  Yes, the fine dining establishments might not benefit, but it could be a banner time for places like Pat's, Geno's and Steve's, among others.

Let the fun begin!


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