DALLAS, Texas—Picture this: your hotel is sold out—100% occupancy—for four consecutive days in the near future and will be filled with VIPs. Restaurants and other public spaces will remain open to the public, but your No. 1 priority will be meeting the needs of the guests who bought out your hotel.
So far so good, right? One problem: you have no idea who the guests are, no point person, and you won’t find out until one week before they arrive.
Although it sounds like a reality TV game show, that’s actually the case at two Omni properties in the North Texas area. The Omni Mandalay Hotel at Las Colinas and the Omni Hotel Fort Worth were selected by the NFL to host the Super Bowl XLV teams leading up to the big game on 6 February. The Super Bowl team representing the AFC will stay in Fort Worth and the team representing the NFC will stay in Las Colinas.
Mingle with NFL players the week of 31 January in this lobby at the Omni Hotel Fort Worth.
“Every group is important and very exciting, but there is a little bit of buzz surrounding this one because it’s the Super Bowl,” said Larry Auth, director of sales at the 614-room Omni Fort Worth, which also will host ESPN in the days leading up to the game.
What Auth does know, of course, is the team he is hosting will be determined 23 January in the AFC Championship game. He then expects the AFC team and its employees to start arriving seven days before the game.
How to handle the players and what intricacies the team will request won’t be known until the day they begin arriving.
“Within the last two weeks, we’ll be planning for what will be our biggest event of the year,” he said. “Parties, lunches … each team has its own idiosyncrasies. We’ll have our staff on hand, ready and dedicated to get details from the teams.”
Auth said his employees talked with managers at hotels that hosted last year’s Super Bowl teams in Miami to get a better idea of what to expect. And the Omni Fort Worth has hosted different visiting teams playing the Cowboys throughout the regular season, so employees at the hotel know what it’s like to host NFL players. But each team approaches hotel stays differently.
“Some clubs want to arrive in town and have everyone, all the fans, waiting and cheering in the lobby,” said Dave Houghton, director of events for the NFL. “Some want to keep segregated and use the back entrance and the hidden elevators.”
You too can host a team
As you can imagine, there are many benefits to hosting an NFL team at your property. So how can you throw your hat in the ring?
Your best approach is to take a look at your local team’s upcoming schedule when it is released in April. Take note of what teams will be coming to your area and reach out to them with your sales pitch.
Each NFL team has a travel planner that manages transportation and hotels for their respective team. The NFL holds a trade show each year and those travel managers are invited. Hotels come and present their brand or individual property to travel managers.
“That way the clubs don’t have to shop around the country,” Houghton said. “It’s very beneficial to the team manager.”
Auth said that tradeshow was actually held at the Omni in Fort Worth last year. It was a great opportunity for his department to meet each travel manager for the 32 NFL teams.
“When the Cowboys’ schedule was announced, we picked up the phone and called all those individual teams,” he said.
Landing the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl teams is unique because the locations are determined in advance but the teams aren’t. In the case of Super Bowl XLV, Auth said a host committee for the north Texas area worked with the NFL to promote every hotel in the region, and it was up to the NFL to choose individual host sites for the teams, media, NFL employees, etc.
“We’re very proud because both Omnis were selected and I don’t know if that’s happened before,” Auth said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”
As each NFL week passes and we get closer to Super Sunday, Auth can start crossing potential teams off the list. At this point, five teams are officially eliminated from the NFL playoff chase: the Carolina Panthers, the Detroit Lions, the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos. Here's hoping he's stocked up on black and gold streamers.