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A trip to the Super Bowl is a far cry from a budget vacation, and some fans pay as much as it takes to put themselves inside a hotel room and then the stadium for the big game.
This year’s showdown between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona is one of the costliest Super Bowls ever, says Ety Rybak, founder Inside Sports and Entertainment Group, a travel provider to major sporting and entertainment events around the world, including the Super Bowl.
With a blizzard leaving behind more than 30 inches of snow in parts of metro Boston this week, Rybak said many New England fans likely won’t make it to Glendale, although this kind of situation isn’t unprecedented.
“We had similar problems a few years back when the Pats were in the Super Bowl in Arizona and we had a snow storm right before the game,” said Rybak. “That storm really significantly impacted travel for the New England fans. With our clients, 40 to 50 people didn’t make it, and they didn’t know they wouldn’t make it until the day of the Super Bowl. A lot of tickets went unused.”
“I don’t see that happening in this case, I don’t think this storm will make as big an impact if New Englanders get held up because Arizona is Seattle’s Florida. A lot of Seattle folks vacation in Arizona just like a lot of Boston folks vacation in Florida. The stadium seats will still be filled, but probably not by as many New England fans than if we didn’t just have a massive blizzard.”
A Super Bowl Trip
Travelers descending on the 78,000 seat stadium in Glendale have likely saved for years for their dream trip to the Super Bowl, or they just have big wallets. Rybak says the latter is more common: Travelers will pay at least $500 a night for a hotel, even if they look for rooms further away from the stadium.
Hotels nearby the Glendale stadium will feature average room rates of more than $1,000 per night, and there’s a four-night minimum stay required for most. A stay at a Hyatt or Omni property in Glendale will amount to $1,500 a night on average, a bargain compared to a Four Seasons stay: $2,500 a night.
Tucson, Arizona, about an hour’s drive from Glendale, will have hotels with slightly lower nightly rates. In Scottsdale, Arizona, about a 30-minute drive from the stadium, a stay at the Embassy Suites will be $499 a night, up from its usual $199 a night.
“Hotels are bigger than the game tickets and every year its tougher and tougher to get a hotel room,” said Rybak. “Each year, there’s the same amount of supply, but a ton of more people are coming to city. Super Bowl host cities don’t create more hotel rooms for the Super Bowl.”
“For a city to get the Super Bowl, it has to commit 75% of its premium hotel rooms for anyone associated with the NFL, and then 25% to fans or companies attending the game.”
And of course airfare spiked this week for schedules to Phoenix from Boston and Seattle, though Seattle fans have it a little better. Sites such as Skyscanner, for example, show a round-trip ticket from Seattle to Phoenix departing Wednesday, January 28 and returning Monday, February 2 averaging about $1,000, while a round-trip for the same dates for Boston to Phoenix averages $1,300.
The competition of which companies get the best seats at the game is often more of a bloodsport than the game itself, making Super Bowl travel providers’ jobs high stakes.
“The Super Bowl is a huge schmooze fest and every company has to be there whether they like it or not,” said Rybak.
Most Expensive Super Bowl Ever?
This year the cheapest tickets have increased by more than $1,000 from last year’s game. This year’s average ticket price is more than $4,100 and is expected to rise by game day, but this is on the cheaper end, the best seats go for tens of thousands of dollars.
“This year I’m seeing the strongest ticket prices for any Super Bowl I’ve seen,” said Rybak. “The NFL raised face values of tickets because I think there’s just a greater general interest in this match-up and there’s a lot of great story lines.”
The Super Bowl also draws many international fans for which football is a foreign sport not played in their home country. Most of the international crowd hails from Latin and South America because of the game’s proximity to those regions, Rybak said.
“There are more [Dallas Cowboys] fans in Mexico than there are in Dallas,” said Rybak. “These international fans traveling to the game are definitely extremely wealthy, but this is still a once in a lifetime trip for them.”
“What I’ve found is that the Super Bowl is also full of fans who’ve never been before. A lot of [non-wealthy] fans go to the Super Bowl city and search for tickets.”
Outside the Game
Because of the four-night minimum stay at hotels in and around the stadium, this prevents many fans from simply flying in and out on game day and likely renders travelers captive audiences of what Glendale has to offer its visitors.
The NFL typically offers an array of entertainment options for fans, including concerts in hosts cities. This year the NFL will offer free concerts in downtown Glendale each day this week that will be cater to a mix of families and mature adults.
“There’s definitely more than enough entertainment to be had and a host city needs all of it,” said Rybak. “I’ve definitely noticed an increase in the entertainment and attractions offered in recent years, though, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that so many people go to the Super Bowl now without tickets to the game and just want to be in the city.”
Rybak adds the average person will spend $200 to $300 a night on dinner, and getting into any nightly Super Bowl party will cost $50 at the door and drinks can average between $8 to $10.
“Any decent party this year will see fans spending between $500 to $1,000 per party,” said Rybak.