Super Bowl travel plans mix business, fun

January 29, 2007

Many of the city's top business and political leaders are planning a February field trip to Miami.

They'll chase deals. Network. Relax. And watch a little football game the city has been looking forward to for more than 20 years.

Super Bowl XLI has become a can't-miss event for dozens of local business executives and government honchos, who are shelling out several thousand dollars apiece to watch the Feb. 4 game in person.

The first Super Bowl appearance for the Indianapolis Colts provides an opportunity to meet up with clients or colleagues, sell the city to an international audience, or just collect an experience to share with the grandkids.

Among those making the trip are the mayor, governor and six other civic and business leaders who hope to lay the foundation for bringing the 2011 Super Bowl to Indianapolis. They hope to learn about what it takes to host the event and make contacts that could help seal the deal.

"The city is suddenly a lot more relevant and has more street cred because we're in the game," said Fred Glass, who heads the city's Capital Improvement Board and is leading the Super Bowl effort. "It's a really fortunate result for us because I don't think we'd get as much attention if we weren't in the Super Bowl."

Many others who are heading to Miami for the Feb. 4 match-up between the Colts and Chicago Bears say their trips won't have much to do with business.

"I'm just going because I want to go," said Bart Kaufman, CEO of locally based Kaufman Financial Corp.

Kaufman, 65, plans to take his wife, three daughters, three sons-in-law and his grandson to Miami. He got two tickets from the Colts and plans to buy seven more from brokers and rent a house for the entourage. He already made dinner reservations at The Palm, an upscale steakhouse known for its top-notch service and jumbo Nova Scotia lobsters.

He said he didn't want to end up like friends who still regret not traveling to the 1967 Rose Bowl, when Indiana University made its first and only appearance. He traveled to New Orleans to watch the 1987 NCAA basketball championship in which Keith Smart hit the game winner for IU.

He ranks that game as the best he's seen. The 2007 AFC Championship game comes in second.

"I've been to Super Bowls," Kaufman said. "But I've never seen one with a team I cared about and lived and died for."

Demand for tickets is particularly high this year since neither team has been to the Super Bowl in years and both cities have large and supportive business communities, said Robert Tuchman, president of TSE Sports and Entertainment, a New York-based firm specializing in marketing and client entertainment.

Tuchman said he received more than 100 calls from businesses seeking tickets the day after the lineup was set, with about 40 of them coming from Indianapolis. For about $7,000, the company was selling packages that include a ticket to the game and hotel accommodations on South Beach, as well as admission to Penthouse and Playboy parties and a celebrity golf tournament.

"It's a great way of doing business," Tuchman said. "You're able to get a potential client away for four or five days in a non-business environment."

Irwin Union Bank President Brad Kime plans to network with business associates, but doesn't plan to cut any deals on his Super Bowl trip.

Kime, 46, plans to attend the game with a friend who is an attorney in Washington, D.C. He'll meet socially with other Indianapolis executives while in Miami, but mostly the trip will be for pleasure.

Kime made his travel arrangements after the Colts beat the Ravens, figuring he'd sell the tickets if the Colts lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. It was a risk he was willing to take to attend his first Super Bowl.

"This has always been on my list of things to do in life," Kime said.

For another Indianapolis executive who will be in Miami on Super Bowl weekend, the big event is old hat. Eddie White, Reebok's vice president of team properties, has worked at more than 20 Super Bowls.

White is part of a 12-member contingent traveling to Miami from the Reebok plant off Post Road. Reebok, which is now part of The Adidas Group of Germany, is the NFL's official supplier of everything from jerseys, warm-ups and shoes to championship T-shirts and hats.

For the AFC Championship, White's job was getting a hat on Peyton Manning immediately after the game ended.

"The romantic note this year is, one of the teams is from our hometown," he said.

But White won't get to see the game. On Saturday, he'll fly to Hawaii to work on equipment for the Pro Bowl.

Indianapolis tourism promoters also expect to be hard at work during their visit to Miami.

They are pulling together plans to meet with members of the national media to sell the city with fact sheets and video footage and woo groups that might consider holding events in Indianapolis, said Bob Schultz, spokesman for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association.

Another six people will be attending the Super Bowl in the delegation led by Glass. The group will be looking at Super Bowl logistics, including transportation, hotels and entertainment. It will use the information for a potential Super Bowl bid, which is due to the NFL in early April. The Colts provided tickets for the group and private funds will cover transportation and lodging, Glass said.

The group will be joined by Mayor Bart Peterson and Gov. Mitch Daniels. Peterson and three others from his office will attend the game and are paying their own way, the mayor said. Daniels also plans to attend the game, but specific plans were still in the works, his spokeswoman said via e-mail.

Meanwhile, dozens of less-connected fans have called The Travel Authority office at IUPUI. But most balk at the $3,000 to $8,000 price for a ticket, said Katie Hunter, the store manager.

Package prices go much higher. Airline reservations are next to impossible. Hotel reservations on eBay are going for a $250 premium over nightly rates, and parking passes fetch more than $200.

"Everybody dies when they hear the price," Hunter said.

Bob Birge, president of locally based Law Firm Marketing Network, has been checking Super Bowl ticket prices on eBay, but mostly out of curiosity.

He won't be going to the game, despite traveling in the past to games featuring the Colts, including a 1996 AFC Championship loss at Pittsburgh.

Prices are just too steep.

"While I really like the guys I work with, taking them down to Florida is probably not going to be in my plans," Birge said.

A much better deal is watching the game at home, he said. He'll probably serve chili, as he did for the AFC Championship, and show the game on three plasma TVs (worth about as much as a pair of nosebleed seats).

The TV in the basement requires a pledge of silence, he said, while ones in two other rooms are available for children, or wives who wish to socialize.

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