January 26 2010 | Latest NewsForget Miami; the Super Bowl party is here
By Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune
January 26, 2010, 7:23AM
25mnminibowlRusty Costanza / The Times-PicayuneNew Olreans Saints fans flood Bourbon Street in the French Quarter after the Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikingson Sunday. Miami may have dibs on the official Super Bowl XLIV party, but for some New Orleans Saints fans, specifically those living outside the Crescent City, it seems that New Orleans is the preferred destination for the big game.
New Orleans native and Houston resident Brooke Bailey never considered making the trip to Florida.
"It wasn't an option, " Bailey said. "I definitely know that the big party is going to be at home and I prefer to spend it around family and friends in the city."
Bailey booked a suite downtown, where she plans to party before the game with friends and family and, in the case of a Saints win, after the Feb. 7 contest.
Bailey was not alone among Saints fans in reserving a hotel in New Orleans, instead of in Miami. Several hotels on Monday reported an increase in room reservations after the team's win Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, a development that has the potential to provide millions in economic impact to New Orleans in two weeks.
"What is the economic impact of the Super Bowl on the city with New Orleans in the game?" pondered Mary Beth Romig, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We've never been in a position to measure it. But you know that there's going to be huge amounts of spending in the bars and the restaurants around the city."
If early signs are any indication, hotels may see a bit of that spending, too. Calls for reservations began pouring into the Royal Sonesta Hotel almost instantly after Garrett Hartley's field goal in overtime cemented the Saints' position in the NFL's championship game, said Al Groos, the hotel's general manager. The hotel's balcony suites facing Bourbon Street, which don't typically sell out on a Sunday during the first weekend of Mardi Gras, were the first to go, Groos said.
"As soon as that ball went through the goal posts, the phone was ringing off the hook, " he said. The Royal Sonesta had booked 60 room reservations by early Monday morning. "I know the game is in Miami, but there are people who want to celebrate in New Orleans. The attraction is the city and the party."
For New Orleans expats, the attraction also is home.
Brian Jupiter, a native New Orleanian who has lived in Chicago for seven years, plans to rent an RV along with about eight of his friends, now Saints fans by association.
"I just figured it would be a better party in New Orleans, " Jupiter said. "And it gives me a reason to come home."
The overnight increase in bookings did not surprise Mark Wilson, director of sales for The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans. Wilson said Saints games have raised demand for rooms at the newly opened hotel all season.
"I actually predicted it, " Wilson said. "I thought that because of the nature of this city's passion for the Saints and because it's such a fun party environment anyway that people would come here. "This is a community that almost holistically celebrates the Saints. I think that Super Bowl weekend will be as big an event in New Orleans as it is in Miami."
Romig said the visitors bureau had not yet decided early Monday how best to promote New Orleans as a tourist destination for the Super Bowl.
"We're very early in talking about that, " Romig said. "But it's definitely a part of the plan."
The group was focusing initially on how to turn the national spotlight into a marketing opportunity that would target future travelers, Romig said.
Although reservations were only up slightly at the Marriott New Orleans Hotel on Canal Street Monday morning, the hotel's general manager, Gil Zanchi, said he planned to put a package together to woo Saints fans from across the Gulf Coast later in the week.
Fans who travel to New Orleans, however, will not be able to join in any mass watching of the big game, outside those gatherings held at bars, restaurants and the like. The NFL, citing federal copyright law, prohibits mass viewing at venues like the Louisiana Superdome.
"We'd sure like to. It would be wonderful, " said Bill Curl, a spokesman for the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Arena. "But NFL policy prohibits it. The Dome and the Arena will be closed to Saints fans."
Jaquetta White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3494.
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