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01/25/2011

Metroplex visitors bureaus work OT to catch Steelers, Packers fans

Metroplex convention and visitors bureaus are trying to snag their share of Super Bowl visitors, with only about half of the region’s 90,000-plus rooms expected to be occupied during the four-night peak next week.

The Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau has been engaging Steeler and Packer fans in a social media blitz, and directing callers to the North Texas Super Bowl’s www.northtexassuperbowl.com site, where they can use a centralized hotel booking engine.

The Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, focusing on the Steelers, who will be hosted by the Omni Fort Worth Hotel downtown, is using everything from Facebook and Twitter blasts to online advertising and public relations to engage Pittsburgh fans and let them know how close the city is to Cowboys Stadium.

"We have purchased some space to impact the Pittsburgh market," said David DuBois, CEO of the Fort Worth bureau.

Tarrant County hotels aren’t being helped by perceptions that the game is in Dallas – Steelers coach Mike Tomlin shouted "See ya in Dallas" after securing his team’s slot in the Super Bowl.

"It’s not any more different from the challenges we saw in the beginning," Jay Burress, CEO of the Arlington bureau, said. "A lot of people in the country do view this region by a name."

Downtown Fort Worth is virtually sold out, but there are pockets of rooms elsewhere in the city, including the I-35 corridor, Fossil Creek, University Drive near TCU, and in Southwest Fort Worth’s Hulem Mall-Bryant Irvin Road corridor, he noted.

In case you’re wondering, Fort Worth has 135 hotels and 13,000 rooms. Tarrant County has an estimated 252 hotels and 29,000 rooms, according to the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association.

"We’re not like New Orleans where they have 20,000 rooms downtown and you ‘ve got to stay in Baton Rouge to get close," DuBois said.

DuBois cautioned fans who see pitches from brokers who claim they have hotels rooms, airfare, and tickets secured to contact the Steelers or Packers headquarters before buying.

At the same time he’s trying to get Super Bowl fans to come to Fort Worth, DuBois is also trying to keep locals from steering clear of downtown, particularly at night, when office workers have gone home..

"Less than 5 percent of the Sundance Square parking lots are being used by ESPN," DuBois said. "There’s still a lot of parking available downtown."

He estimates 5,000-8,000 visitors will be staying in downtown hotels at the Super Bowl peak, and 10,000 within two miles.

Stuart Schuster, president of Marvin Electronics, is one Fort Worth denizen who intends to throw himself into the fray.

"I got reservations at Del Frisco’s that Saturday night (Feb. 5)," he said. "And I’ve had them for a long time just to see what’s going on." 

Grapevine is another potential landing spot for Super Bowl fans.

The city’s Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center is a key NFL sponsors’ hotel. Lisa Samuel, spokeswoman for the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau, says there’s still availability in the city, but she declined to quantify it. "Grapevine hotels are doing very well, but there are still rooms available for fans," she said. "Super Bowl fans are currently making travel plans and we are starting to see a consistent flow of requests."

One prime property, the Great Wolf Lodge, was showing normal rates and no minimum stay requirements earlier in the week, according to its booking engine. But by Tuesday, the site was showing no availability for the four-night peak stay, and only limited availability for one and two-night stays late in the week. A spokeswoman for the hotel did not return a telephone call.

- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram

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