The Super Bowl generated more than $1 million in merchandise sales at Indianapolis International Airport, airport officials said Friday.
The big game on Feb. 5 brought 528 additional aircraft to Indianapolis International and its regional reliever airports. Indianapolis Regional Airport, in Mount Comfort, alone hosted aircraft from 10 NFL team owners.
Airport executive Mike Medvescek told the Indianapolis Airport Authority board it was the biggest influx of planes he’d seen “in the 22 years I’ve worked here.”
To accommodate the influx, the airport closed one smaller runway and turned it into an airplane parking lot. The ramp of the former U.S. Postal Service air facility also became a parking place, as well as 58 acres of ramp space at the former passenger terminal.
FedEx Corp. agreed to donate a portion of its massive air-cargo terminal as a parking lot.
“Several billion dollars worth of metal was here sitting on the ground,” Medvescek said.
The crunch also was felt at security checkpoints. At one point, 24,574 passengers were screened in a 24-hour period compared with 9,229 during the same period of 2011.
Airport officials are still tallying key numbers such as landing-fee income, and they plan to present a full report of the Super Bowl’s impact next month.
Heavy planning for the event appeared to pay off, such as setting up an employee parking lot west of the terminal as a rental car return area as a way to prevent chaos at the airport parking garage.
“Within two hours, we had 2,000 cars returned to this lot,” said Marsha Stone, the airport’s chief financial officer.
Stone said taxi-cab activity swelled 631 percent on the Saturday before the game. Anticipating such demand, more than 200 additional cabs were prepared ahead of time.
“The guests were absolutely shocked they could get taxis so fast here,” Stone said.
The Super Bowl was a much-needed shot in the arm for the airport, which has seen flight activity fall during the economic slowdown. Officials are projecting a 3-percent decrease in passenger enplanements in 2012.
Some of that involves flight cutbacks by AirTran and Delta Air Lines.
Stone said airport officials and local businesses used the big event to buttonhole airline executives about adding more service.