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Super Bowl LII just weeks away: Prep begins at NR Airport

Super Bowl LII, which will be held at US Bank Stadium Feb. 4, is expected to bring thousands of people to the area, some of which will utilize the New Richmond Airport. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings

So aside from the obvious, the Twin Cities and surrounding airports, who else in the region is likely to benefit from Super Bowl LII? The consensus at a recent meeting in Hudson of chambers of commerce from western Wisconsin municipalities was, not too many people.

Unless you are attending the game, a much more likely scenario for local Viking fans, it will probably be party on as usual for the rest of us. However, the lodging and hospitality businesses in New Richmond can realistically expect a "bump" in business primarily due to the airport's expected role in landing planes full of "professional" fans. Whether that bump lasts a week or a weekend, Mayor Fred Horne, New Richmond Chamber President Rob Kreibich, City Administrator Mike Darrow and Police Chief Craig Yehlik,all agree the airport is the gateway to whatever economic benefit New Richmond might accrue from this year's biggest party.

"With conversations that we've had, working with Rob and talking with the Mayor, obviously the airport is the gateway and after that it's a matter of promoting the businesses and the bars and restaurants here and making sure people are safe. With lots of people in town, New Richmond can be a great alternative for people who want to support the local economy and still enjoy the game," said Darrow.

Regional chamber directors conceded that it will be difficult to convince fans to leave all the parties in the Twin Cities to come to western Wisconsin. What sets New Richmond apart, however, is the airport.

"The one thing that allows New Richmond to stand out is our airport. The bridge makes us practically a Twin Cities suburb," said Kreibich.

It may sound a bit far fetched, however exciting, airports situated like New Richmond's with less traffic , less general chaos and convenient access to the game attract specific fans, corporate parties that want to get in and out and ... celebrities.

"You get your typical celebrities who come to every Super Bowl regardless of who's in it. They're not generally the audience that's going to come a week ahead of time. So where are they going to land a day or two out? Probably Mankato or New Richmond," said Kreibich.

"For our perspective, we've got an advantage and an opportunity here to have celebrities and people use this as a secondary venue to land their planes and go to the game. It's very realistic that we could get a lot of corporate jets here. They (the airport) have capacity for 35 corporate jets. There could may be as many as a hundred people there that night for a party and viewing of the game," speculated Kreibich.

Kreibich is excited for community members to capitalize on the opportunity.

"We are encouraging local bars and restaurants to really take advantage of this opportunity. As a chamber, if local establishments (restaurants, hotels, etc.) are doing anything related to Super Bowl parties, we want to know and help make the people landing at the airport aware of those opportunities. We're also putting out to our ambassadors and chamber members the opportunity to volunteer at the airport event. You'll be able to see the game and who knows who else you might see," said Kreibich.

Kreibich and Darrow also know this is a red carpet moment for not just a one-time bump in business, it is a chance to make a lasting impression on folks passing through who might consider New Richmond as a solution for longer term plans including moving their business or family to town.

"We'll have our business directories available at the airport. If we can make a good impression, who knows what kind of business that could lead to down the road. Someone flying in might be looking to expand in the Midwest, looking for infrastructure. We've got the second largest general aviation airport in the state, we're close to the interstate and we've got the new bridge. New Richmond has a lot of benefits," said Kreibich.

Yehlik has been working with the airport and regional law enforcement bodies to anticipate the security challenges sure to accompany the big party.

"With our municipal airport being in close proximity to the Twin Cities and when people see how easy it is to get from New Richmond to the Twin cities, I would think we would be kind of the likely spill over spot. That's a concern for us. So we're laying some foundation here, trying to figure out if we're going to need extra manpower for that day, that weekend or not. I've also been monitoring the hotels on how they are booking up. So far to date, there have been a lot inquiries but not a lot of bookings. We'll continue to monitor those kinds of things as we move forward," said Yehlik.

As far as criminal activity, Yehlik has two priorities, drinking and driving and human trafficking.

"Although I don't foresee a spike in crime in this area, we will take a hard look at human trafficking because some of the research I've done says when you have big events come to town, there can be an increase in that kind of activity. So we'll cover our bases on that. Also, Super Bowl weekend is one of those where we are very concerned about drinking and driving. So whether folks are passing through or having a party at their house, we encourage everyone to monitor those situations. We want motorist to be safe," said Yehlik.

The Chief also sees some potential for civil issues such as property damage and theft arising from the opportunity some local folks will take advantage of to rent their property to out-of-town visitors for the game.

With the long-term forecast calling for seasonal conditions and the game just weeks away, keep an eye on social media and the news for updates and opportunities to get involved locally for the big game.