Sunday’s Super Bowl will mark the closest that the Greater Lehigh Valley has ever come to the big game.
Restaurants, resorts, hotels, casinos, bars and even airports all have a stake in capturing some of a massive target audience looking to spend its dollars.
This year, the game will be hosted at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J., about 90 minutes and 75 miles from the Pennsylvania border with Jersey.
When the NFL stages its first cold-weather Super Bowl – pitting Denver vs. Seattle – in an outdoor stadium, will nearby eastern Pennsylvania benefit from increased recreation or tourism?
The Poconos region could see the most benefit as travelers looking to either escape the New York metro area or turn the Super Bowl into an extended weekend getaway could be more likely to stay at resorts in northeast Pennsylvania.
The Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown area most likely would not see much impact since the New York metro area has ample activities and hotel room capacity. However, some spillover could occur. Lehigh Valley International Airport, for example, is banking on business from smaller aircraft bringing people to the game. But how much traffic, as they say, is up in the air.
In the Poconos, there’s not just one but four potential opportunity segments for businesses, according to Carl Wilgus, president and CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau in Stroudsburg.
One opportunity will be displacement. As the Super Bowl draws near, hotels in Manhattan could be charging as much as $1,000 per night for a room. This of course, displaces those business professionals and corporate travelers who might normally book a room in that location.
“We have the most lodging between here and New York City,” Wilgus said. “I think we have an opportunity to gain some of that business.”
Another opportunity could arise from people in the New York City area who might want to get away during the Super Bowl and the associated traffic and congestion. They could opt to go to the Poconos at more reasonable prices.
A third opportunity comes from the fan base of the teams in the game.
“We stand between here and the stadium,” Wilgus said.
Media opportunities make up the fourth opportunity for drawing business to the Poconos, Wilgus said.
“There are thousands of journalists coming here; we think there are some media opportunities,” Wilgus said. “Those won’t come up until right before game time.”
Photographers could be seeking outdoor winter shots, and reporters might want winter recreation-themed storylines. Pocono resorts offer the perfect backdrop, along with the traditional Big Apple views of Times Square and Broadway in New York City, according to Wilgus.
The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau has Super Bowl packages and special offers on its website to draw attention to the event.
Bars and restaurants could also be getting additional business as they promote the big-screen potential for those looking to watch the game.
Casinos, including Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono and Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, could be expecting big crowds, too, as the Super Bowl is a level of event that draws people who are pre-disposed to gaming, Wilgus said.
“For Super Bowl Weekend, our hotel occupancy is already at 100 percent, and we expect our restaurants, bars and gaming floor to be at full capacity from Jan. 30 through Feb. 2 at Mount Airy Casino Resort,” said Vince Jordan, vice president of marketing and player development at the resort. “Our patrons – many of them New Yorkers – are turning the traditional Super Bowl party into an extended weekend getaway.”
Jordan said the casino was optimistic this would occur, so it built into its entertainment lineup events such as the Las Vegas Dream Girls Centerfold Revue, an appearance by 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live alumnus Tracy Morgan and a party – featuring cheerleaders – on the day of the game.
Not much Super Bowl-related business is expected in the Greater Lehigh Valley, according to Mike Stershic, president of Discover Lehigh Valley, a tourist promotion agency based in Allentown.
“Unlike many other cities that have hosted it in the past, New York metro areas have a lot more room capacity,” Stershic said. “A lot would depend on how many people are flying in.”
With a lot of Super Bowl-themed activities occurring near or in New York City, there won’t be much impact beyond the metro area, according to Stershic.
“I’m reasonably confident to say that we won’t see any impact, either,” he said.
However, there could be some spillover activity from people being pushed out of hotel rooms that normally would stay but want to avoid the higher room rates, according to Stershic.
Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, may not be banking on huge business in air travelers for the event, but the airport is trying to position itself as an alternative to the New York metro airports for the Super Bowl, according to Charles Everett, executive director for the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.
Though the airport received a lukewarm response when it reached out to the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee last year, the Lehigh Valley airport is exploring other ways to market itself, Everett said.
He noted its proximity to the stadium, with passengers able to get to East Rutherford in a little more than an hour. While New Jersey airports such as Morristown and Teterboro are closer to the event, LVIA is not adding or increasing any parking fees like some of those airports are, Everett said.
“It really depends on who is playing,” Everett said a couple of weeks ago, before the Super Bowl participants were determined. “As a Pennsylvania airport, we don’t really have a seat at the table. The only feasible opportunity we have is air traffic coming in. The real issue is providing relief for the air traffic.”
The National Business Aviation Association, a Washington, D.C.-based business aviation organization, hosted a schedulers and dispatchers conference Jan. 14-17 in New Orleans, and LVIA had a booth at the event to market the airport as an alternative to the New York metro airport, Everett said.
“I think our selling point the whole time has been the convenience,” said Daniel Betters, director of business and commercial services for Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. “There should be minimal delays getting in and out.”
While Betters said he anticipates an increase in air traffic at LVIA as a result of the Super Bowl, he said it was too early to tell exactly what that demand would be. Betters said the booth at the New Orleans conference drew interest from attendees.
In June, LVIA officials attended a NBAA conference to learn more about potential business opportunities related to the Super Bowl and also spoke with the Federal Aviation Association, Everett said.
The FAA anticipates that there is going to be a lot of air traffic getting into the New York metro area. Everett said one way LVIA could capitalize on this is by offering space for private aircraft to land and passengers to ride a bus or limousine to the stadium. Everett said there is space at LVIA for 100 aircraft, which would be noncommercial aircraft such as private business jets.
The other potential opportunity would be for aircraft to drop passengers off at the stadium and land at LVIA to wait for the end of the game. This scenario, however, is less likely, according to Everett.
“It’s very hard to predict,” Everett said. “The New York metro region — this is the most congested air space in the nation and we are right outside that. We think we will get traffic, we just don’t know an estimate. Either way, we suspect we’ll be an airport [that] people will look at for an alternative.”