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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Handling Super Bowl transportation is always a challenge for operators since the annual mega-game plays out in a different city every year. The upcoming Super Bowl XLVIII could be the most logistically difficult of all previous 47 games because it is being held Feb. 2 at the MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, located in the heavily congested New Jersey-New York City corridor.
Plus, the NFL is hyping the game as the “first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl”— gambling that a blizzard doesn’t turn it into “Snow Bowl.”
Regardless of the weather, the game will go on and fans will demand private transportation services all week in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut. It is estimated that 800 limousine companies will be needed to service the event. If you plan to work the event, you must remember that the Super Bowl is a week-long party consisting of numerous activities and nightlife, especially in Manhattan.
To help you navigate the game and ensure that you make money for your time and energy, a panel of veteran operators who have worked numerous Super Bowls and other big events shared their collective insights Oct. 29 at the LCT Show East Super Bowl session in the Atlantic City Convention Center.
The panel, moderate by LCT Magazine contributing writer Linda Jagiela, consisted of Jeff Greene (Green Classic Limousines in Atlanta), Dave Shaw (Olympus Limousines in Tampa), George Jacobs (Windy City Limousines & Bus in Chicago), and Mark Hayden (Metro Cars in Detroit).
To ensure a profitable Super Bowl, panelists agreed operators should establish minimum hours per booking to manage vehicles as efficiently as possible. They also agreed that pay-in-advance and strict cancellation policies are needed to get a maximum return on investment.
Jacobs, who worked one Super Bowl and a World Series, advised operators to increase minimum hours rather than raise rates to maintain good customer relations. “Don’t raise rates, but raising minimum hours is acceptable, and let your customers know in advance,” he said. “You can set an 8- to 12-hour minimum for game day; just let your regular customers know in advance so they are not caught off guard.”
Greene, who has worked two Super Bowls, said he kept his rates the same for regular customers, but increased rates 15% for Super Bowl-related business to cover additional expenses. “We didn’t have any pushback when we set minimum hours,” he said, adding that he also implemented a 30-day cancellation policy. And two weeks before the game, he charged 25% for cancellations to ensure his fleet was booked.
Because the two teams that will face off won’t be known until two weeks before the big game, the rush from the competing cities’ fan base for private transportation services occurs in that 14-day timespan.
“The bulk of the business — more than 50% — comes in the last two weeks prior to the game,” Jacobs said. “You have all your cars there and hotel rooms and you get panicky because you haven’t booked all your vehicles. Then the last two weeks the phone doesn’t stop ringing … I almost lost my voice.”
Hayden, a veteran of two Super Bowls, as well as several PGA tournaments, cautioned operators to make sure they get updates from the Super Bowl transportation committee on traffic patterns, road closures, parking and last-minute routing changes.
“Stay on top of the information — road closures, routes, etc., they will be changing right up to the day of the event,” he said.
Having eight Super Bowls under his belt (Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville), Dave Shaw strongly advised operators to take care of business first. “You’ll get a lot of last-minute bookings from affiliates for the weekend and game day, and then you’ll have the mass exit from the city on Monday, so it’s important to get paid up front so you are not chasing money when you are busy around the clock,” Shaw said. He also suggested operators let their affiliates and hotel partners know of any policy changes to make sure things run smoothly.
“I personally went to hotels and my accounts, and also sent them emails informing them of any changes, and asked if they needed to reserve cars during game week,” said Greene, who worked two Super Bowls and a summer Olympics. “In fact, we worked with local taxi companies and if we couldn’t provide transportation for our regular customers, we would pay for the taxi. You take care of your customers and they appreciate that customer service.”
One of the most important tips the panel offered centered on making sure you have all the required permits and parking passes for stadium access. And if your clients say they have parking permits, double check to make sure they actually do have the necessary permits and parking passes. Because many operators will not have permits, having additional permits on hand is advised because they can be sold due to last-minute demand.
Other tips and strategies the panel recommends include: Parking permits do run out, and the earlier you buy them, the closer you get to the stadium entrance. Make sure you book a hotel with rooms for chauffeurs and save a room as your “war room.” Take chauffeurs on a test run of the stadium so they are familiar with and prepared for special game-day traffic patterns and conditions, especially if foul weather is expected.
One final insight from the panel: Wishful thinking aside, unfortunately, the odds of the New York Jets and The New York Giants (both play at MetLife Stadium) facing off in a snowy Super Bowl is practically zero. That would be too much to deal with …
Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
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