Indy Hotels Take Center Stage for Super Bowl

Two years ago Tom Cappucci went to Miami Gardens, FL to see how the city — and its hotels — handled with the Super Bowl XLIV crowd. Last year, the general manager of Indianapolis’ University Place Conference Center & Hotel took a chef and a conference planner to Dallas where they observed operations for the big event.

Their research culminated this week as the New England Patriots took over the 378-room hotel on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis for the Super Bowl XLVI matchup with the New York Giants on Sunday, Feb. 5.

While University Place Center & Hotel hosts the AFC champion Patriots, the NFC champion Giants have made the 622-room Marriott Downtown their headquarters. Both hotels sold out to players, their families and friends.

“They have our whole facility,” says Cappucci. The Patriots arrived Sunday, Jan. 29 for a week of preparation before the big game.

“We’ve even set up an 8,000-square-foot tent to support the media events that are going on. We created a special lobby bar to work as VIP concierge and converted a ballroom — with 54 desks — to their marketing department. They bought out our restaurant and bar.”

“We have a ticket office set up next to the owner’s office suite, which has taken up four banquet rooms,” he says. The garage is dedicated to a guest fleet — 75 cars the NFL provided for team use and another 75 rented by the team for guests to use.

At the beginning of the week the public was welcome at the hotel gift shop, which had become an NFL merchandise store. By week’s end, however, the entire hotel was locked down to outsiders. The NFL provided 20 officers 24/7 to assure security.

The Marriott also started preparing years ahead of time. “We talked to our counterparts at our other Marriotts that have hosted the Giants before to understand what they like for a welcome amenity,” says Janice Zoeller, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “We know their favorite food, their favorite drinks. We’re stocked up on food and beverage.”

To organize star-gazers, the hotel has an “autograph corral” in the lobby. “It’s an area set apart for people to get a football or helmet signed. Players come down and sign autographs periodically,” she says.

The Giants, who arrived at the Marriott on Monday, aren’t the only ones being treated as special. Guests around the city at other hotels are being welcomed with special treats — hot cocoa and snickerdoodle cookies. They’ll also receive souvenir visitor’s guides.

“The whole city took it upon itself to create a consistent welcome experience,” says Zoeller. “It’s something we decided as a city for everyone to be sure they’re having a great experience.”

While team hotels won’t spill their ADRs for the teams and their friends, www.cheaphotels.org has compiled a survey showing sky-high prices for rooms within a short drive of Lucas Oil Stadium.

For example, cheaphotels.org reports that the Americas Best Value Inn, in East Indianapolis, has hiked its $66 per night rate to $990 Super Bowl weekend, a 1,400% increase. And, that’s not the steepest they recorded. The Knights Inn Indianapolis went up 1758% from $39 to $725.

Price peaks are higher than those experienced in Dallas last year, says Tim Hart, the executive vice president of business intelligence at TravelClick.

It’s all simple supply and demand. Dallas has more than twice the number of rooms as Indianapolis. The greater Indianapolis area has 15,000 rooms in approximately 102 hotels. Dallas has around 35,000 rooms.

“That makes Indianapolis’ prices seem more extreme,” says Hart. “Rooms book out. Rates go up. The period represents a peak for them.”

According to data from TravelClick, Indianapolis is experiencing a boom in occupancy, up 390% for Super Bowl weekend, compared with the same period in 2011. Peaks are usual for big event weekends. Dallas also experienced a surge in occupancy — 120% — during its 2011 Super Bowl weekend.

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