MIAMI — When the Super Bowl returns to Miami, produce distributors say the Feb. 7 event should attract a lot of money to the state and help boost produce sales.

For the second consecutive year, the Sunshine State is hosting the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLIV is at Land Shark Stadium, which was previously called Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens.

“The NFL and Super Bowl week are spectacular,” said Walter Vazquez Jr., chief executive officer of Freedom Fresh LLC. “There will be a lot of celebrities and parties and a lot of catering for all the functions that revolve around it. We are expecting it to be a big economic stimulus.”

Vazquez said the last time the event was in Miami, in 2007, it attracted a big influx of sports fans and tourists who like south Florida’s favorable winter weather.

Marshall Glantz, director of business development, exports and executive director for American Fruit & Produce Corp., Opa Locka, said everyone benefits when the Super Bowl comes to town.

“The town will be packed,” he said. “It’s good from one end to another, whether that be a cab driver that goes to the supermarket and shops. The Super Bowl brings a lot of people and affects everyone.”

A big help to sales will be the Pro Bowl, the NFL’s All-Star game, scheduled for Jan. 31 in Miami.

The weekend of the Super Bowl should see south Florida hotels, restaurants and other attractions packed, with business increasing for distributors from south of Miami to north of West Palm Beach.

“We will be busy for the Super Bowl this year,” said Jack Scalisi, president of Jack T. Scalisi Wholesale Produce Distributors, West Palm Beach. “The Super Bowl comes during the height of our winter season. It doesn’t quit until the Passover. It’s always a good shot in the arm for us.” 

Sales also increase for distributors in Florida cities far from south Florida.

“The Super Bowl is almost like a national holiday,” said Larry Movsovitz, chairman and managing director of Produce Distribution Center LLC, Jacksonville. “Here in Jacksonville, you have an influx of sports bars that serve light menus. It has become real big.”

Those sports bars use tomatoes, carrots and celery for hors d'oeuvre dishes, he said.

Chuck Bruno, vice president and general manager of DiMare Fresh-Tampa Inc., Riverview, said the event usually makes for a slight bump in sales.

“You see an influx in the foodservice companies taking product,” he said. “All the people out in restaurants are busier than normal. It’s kind of fun. It should have the same affect in south Florida.”

A distributor on the Tampa Wholesale Produce Market said he doesn’t think the sporting event makes that big a difference in sales.

Louis Garcia III, salesman and buyer for Crews & Garcia Inc., Tampa, said last year’s Super Bowl at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium in February didn’t make for a large increase in produce sales.

“I don’t think it will affect us much,” Garcia said. “I hope it does, but I don’t see it bringing any business over here.”

Garcia said he believes the event attracted a little more business in 2009, but it didn’t generate a lot of increased sales.

In the past when Tampa hosted the Super Bowl, distributors could witness a big difference, Garcia said.

He said the dragging economy kept a lid on any sales increase.

Another market wholesaler, James Killebrew, vice president of Baird Produce Inc., Tampa, agrees that the event usually isn’t a big benefit to distributors.

“I can’t say we have noticed huge improvements,” he said. “Some of the bigger foodservice purveyors probably did well. We saw a little bit of increase but not a lot.”