- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

When it comes to having fun during Super Bowl week, Miami is soundly beating up on the competition.

Companies involved in selling travel and event packages for the Super Bowl said the warm weather, beaches and active night life of South Florida is great for businesses, particularly when compared to recent host cities Detroit and Jacksonville, Fla.

New York-based TSE Sports & Entertainment, which sells packages for companies looking to entertain at the Super Bowl, said it has sold 1,200 packages for Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears, up from just 350 in Detroit.

“It’s night and day compared to last year,” said Robert Tuchman, TSE’s chief executive officer. “Miami has so much more to offer on its own. It makes it so much easier to put together an attractive package. It’s a playground.”

The Super Bowl typically is the top event of the year for companies to entertain clients, schmooze potential customers and reward employees. Routinely, these firms pay thousands of dollars per person for top seats to the game, plus transportation and access to parties and other activities during Super Bowl week.

By most accounts, Detroit performed well as a host city last year. But its cold weather and relatively gloomy business climate meant fewer events to entertain guests for more than a few days. Jacksonville, meanwhile, was criticized as a city more suited for conventions than Super Bowl revelry.

But this year, sellers of Super Bowl event packages said customers are planning to spend more and stay longer than in the past.

And, Miami is doing its part to keep guests happy: The Super Bowl organizing committee raised $10 million for the event, including $8 million from private donors.

Big attractions in Miami include a 10,000-square-foot glass “party house” on South Beach, and at least 25 parties, including two thrown by Maxim and Playboy magazines. Motorola, meanwhile, has taken over 10 blocks of Ocean Drive, and will have a nightly show with colored water fountains. The company, in its eighth year as a Super Bowl sponsor, said the game routinely is the company’s top opportunity for corporate entertainment.

“It’s a completely different ballgame, no pun intended,” said Della Giammusso, co-owner of VIPseats.com, which specializes in selling tickets and event packages for major sporting events. “You’re getting people who go down and won’t even go to the game, because there’s so much more to do.”

The top hotels, meanwhile, have been able to more than double the rates on many rooms, while requiring stays of at least four nights.

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers reports Super Bowl visitors will spend a record $195 million in South Florida, up from less than $120 million in Detroit and $130 million in Jacksonville.

“Although any destination will experience a significant increase in local economic activity associated with hosting a Super Bowl, tourist destinations like Miami, San Diego, Phoenix and New Orleans provide a unique atmosphere that is conducive to a comparatively higher level of spending and extended lengths of stay,” said Robert Canton, a director in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ advisory practice focused on sports, conventions and tourism.

A host of other economists, however, said PricewaterhouseCoopers’ statistics are vastly overstated, and the National Football League disputes the notion that Detroit was any less of a success than South Florida in attracting corporate spenders. The league operates its own corporate-entertaining division, NFL on Location, offering packages primarily to sponsors who seek above and beyond their typical ticket allotment. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said demand for packages is about the same as last year, with about 2,000 packages sold.

Nevertheless, companies such as RazorGator Experiences, the official ticket reseller for both the Bears and the Colts, has experienced brisk sales of its packages and has sold out many of the deals that include airfare. Prices for the land-only packages start at $5,100. RazorGator President David Lord said sales are about on par with last year in Detroit, but noted that prices are considerably higher.

And, companies such as RazorGator said they are spending less time organizing events for the guests, because there is already so much going on in Miami.

“It Detroit, we had to manage the entire day,” Mr. Lord said. “This year, we get people there, and they’re all set. The town already has things planned, from sail fishing to beach parties. There are so many more products and services.”

It helps, too, that South Florida’s economy is thriving. City officials report a decline in unemployment and a real estate boom in the eight years since the Super Bowl was last held in Miami. Bad publicity relating to crime, ethnic tensions and hurricanes also has subsided.

“What we see is that the Miami business climate is hotter than it’s ever been,” said Barry Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. “All signs are positive, and we are optimistic that this will be one of the best Super Bowl weeks ever.”

Package organizers agreed.

“Miami’s become a much better destination since [1999],” Mr. Tuchman said. “It’s a much better sell than it was then.”

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