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Sports Business

Dallas hospitality doesn't measure up, so far

February 2, 2011
KEYWORDS Sports Business

As they say in the "Wizard of Oz," we’re not in Kansas anymore. Or in my case, I’m not in Indy. I’m in Dallas to cover the Indianapolis 2012 Super Bowl host committee.

The first thing I noted upon arriving Tuesday at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport—and granted it was shortly before midnight after flying through two blizzards, an ice storm and sub-arctic temperatures in four cities—was that Dallas doesn’t exactly roll out the red carpet.

Super Bowl signage, decorations or notations were, well, sparse is putting it nicely. There certainly weren’t any information booths for Super Bowl visitors. I didn’t expect there to be a greeting committee at that late hour, but finding a single helpful soul was a real challenge.

Catching a cab was another story altogether. Super Bowl host committees love to impress media members due to what they might write about the city. So they provide a free cab ride from the airport to the media hotel, among other things.

But when I tried to inquire about this, a full-fledged fight broke out among about five Dallas-Fort Worth cab drivers. I was later informed by a local that cab operators are in the midst of some sort of strike. It has something to do with clean air emissions and allowing cabs with certain types of engines to go to the front of the line.

In any event, it was freezing cold when I arrived Tuesday night, and I was in no mood to hear it. So I simply said, “How much?” I felt like Bob Barker. Cabbies started screaming at me, “$50, $50.” One yelled “$60!” One cab driver raced up, slammed on his brakes and started screaming, “You’re not supposed to be picking him up here!” Then he began taking down license plate numbers.

“But wait,” I said, “I have a confirmation slip for a free cab ride.” One guy yelled, “No one will take you. It’s too late and too far.” In the end, one nice fellow, said, “I’ll take you, get in.”

I’m a fiscal conservative from Indiana, so naturally, I said, “How much?”

“Just get in, I’ll take care of you.” So, freezing in temps in the teens, I did what any clueless, half-starved journalist would. I got in.

The cab driver loaded up two other folks and preceded to charge them $60 each. But when he got me to the hotel, he told me my ride was free. I’m frugal, but I’m no fool. This guy took care of me, so I took care of him. I gladly tipped him $20. After all, it was midnight, and the roads were covered with at least an inch of ice.

Through my air odyssey, the airlines lost my luggage. I don’t really blame them for that. It’s no small miracle that I got here at all.

But my Hoosier sensibilities say when you pay $250 a night for a hotel, you should get bowed in and bowed out. So when I told the hotel receptionist my sad story, I was expecting a welcome kit with a toothbrush, comb, razor and maybe something to deal with my contact lenses.

What I got was a curious stare, and an offer of a tiny toothbrush and two itty bitty containers of tooth paste. And a contact lens case with the warning, “Wash it out before you use it.”

Are you kidding me? I asked about a 24-hour drug store. She pointed me to the gift shop. Now, I was impressed that the gift shop was open at midnight. But I was less impressed when they charged me $16.37 for a small bottle of contact lens soaking solution and a new contact lens case. Well, I guess that’s the cost of doing business. At least I hope my boss feels that way.

I asked several locals if the Super Bowl was a big deal here in Dallas. I got several varied responses, from enthusiastic to somewhat tepid. I expected more. Texas is, after all, football country.

The Super Bowl signage downtown is much more dramatic, and I hope to get a better feel for how Dallas is rolling out the red carpet today.

Is it always bigger in Texas? I guess we’ll find out this week.

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