EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Hype from Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis will be evident on the Wisconsin side of the border this weekend through busier-than-usual regional airports, highways and hotels.
With parking spaces at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport sold out, all of the private jets carrying VIPs and high-rollers to Sunday’s big game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots needed to seek places to stow their planes at smaller airports in the region.
New Richmond Regional Airport, for instance, had reservations for 20 private planes as of Monday afternoon for parts of Super Bowl weekend.
“It’s been a busy day on the phone here dealing with potential arrivals from around the country,” said airport manager Mike Demulling, who expects more reservations before the weekend.
Officials from the New Richmond airport, which can accommodate up to 35 aircraft on the ground, have taken advantage of the game’s proximity in their marketing, printing “WE’RE YOUR SUPER BOWL READY AIRPORT” in large type over a photo on the website. The airport is about a 45-minute drive from U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
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Demulling said local hotels are filling up with flight crew bookings and all rental cars are booked, prompting the airport to reach out to Hertz and Enterprise branches in the area to bring in more vehicles. The airport also has recruited a team of 20 volunteers willing to shuttle people back and forth to the game or hotels. “It’s kind of our free Uber service,” he joked.
So far, a majority of the bookings are from Patriots fans, with many of them planning to fly into the region Sunday morning to take part in game-day activities and then fly out that night.
The airport will benefit from fuel sales and parking fees, Demulling said, noting that it also gains exposure.
“We’re getting the word out that we’re here,” he said. “We’re hoping to make a good first impression and hopefully they can come back sometime and do business again.”
The Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire had four private aircraft parking reservations for the Super Bowl as of Monday afternoon, airport manager Charity Zich said.
While the La Crosse Regional Airport is part of a consortium of Super Bowl designated airports, manager Clint Torp said he doesn’t expect any unusual traffic.
“We’re so much further away we probably won’t see much unless there’s weather in Minneapolis,” he said.
Just as the skies will be extra crowded this weekend, so will the roads, as the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee has estimated the event will attract 125,400 non-resident visitors.
The Wisconsin State Patrol is adding patrols to account for the increased traffic volume expected on Interstate 94 and other major western Wisconsin highways leading to the Twin Cities, said Lt. Les Mlsna of the agency’s regional office in Eau Claire.
“We’re gearing up because we know that hotels and airports in Wisconsin are being used for the Super Bowl,” Mlsna said. “We want to be sure traffic keeps flowing at an optimal level.”
However, Mlsna said he doesn’t expect traffic to be much busier than for a holiday or a Packers-Vikings game.
Hudson business officials said they expect hotel bookings to be up over the weekend, and restaurants and bars also are likely to see a boost in business.
“One thing we’ve done in terms of strategy so people knew this was a viable place to stay for the Super Bowl is we increased our presence on tourism websites such as Visit St. Paul,” said Blake Fry, president of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, noting that step also could pay dividends when the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four comes to the Twin Cities in 2019.
The chamber also has deployed social media to reach out to the fan bases of the Eagles and Patriots to encourage them to consider Hudson as a place to stay for the Super Bowl, Fry said.
Front desk worker Emily Wasshausen said the Hampton Inn & Suites in Hudson sold out for Saturday night and got pretty booked up for the surrounding days shortly after the NFC and AFC championship games determined the Super Bowl contestants. The surge came despite the hotel instituting special event prices of up to $480 a night.
Some Eau Claire hotels also have reported tour group bookings and an uptick in reservations related to the Super Bowl, but the city is far enough from Minneapolis that the impact is limited, said Lori Konkler, director of sales and operations for the tourism marketing organization Visit Eau Claire.
“A little bit of a trickle of business but nothing too major at this point,” Konkler said.
A number of border community homeowners also have been promoting their houses on Airbnb as potential places to stay for people attending the Super Bowl or just visiting to soak up the atmosphere of the National Football League’s showcase game. Several listings call for renting whole houses for $5,000 to $10,000 a night.
Brooke Fleetwood, who owns a bright pink Victorian mansion in Hudson she calls the “Pink Castle,” listed it for $7,275 per night to see if she’d get a taker.
The property, which she has never attempted to rent out before, had attracted several inquiries as of Monday afternoon but was still available.
“I figure people going to the Super Bowl have to have some money because tickets aren’t cheap,” Fleetwood said. “If it rents out, that’d be so cool, but nothing is set in stone yet, so we’ll see.”