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Friday, November 18, 2005

City hopes to get on the board for K.C.’s Super Bowl revenue

Cashing in on the big game

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If Kansas City ends up hosting a Super Bowl sometime in the next decade, tens of thousands of football fanatics will descend upon the region, and they'll need places to sleep, eat and fritter away their cash.

They might even need a place to celebrate James Naismith, the inventor of the football helmet.

Lawrence, in other words, could make big money off the big game.

"It's going to be a lot of excitement," said Chuck Magerl, proprietor of Free State Brewing Co. in downtown Lawrence. "It's obvious the Super Bowl isn't just a one-day event; the buildup will spill over into the days leading up to that. Lawrence could take advantage of that."

But turning the gridiron dream into reality will be difficult. Kansas City must spend more than $100 million in improvements to Arrowhead Stadium, including construction of a rolling roof, before the NFL finalizes plans to hold a Super Bowl there sometime in the next 10 years.

So Lawrence leaders weren't letting themselves get carried away this week with thoughts of a tourism windfall.

"Like a lot of big-money projects, that's yet to be seen," City Manager Mike Wildgen said Thursday.

Giant opportunity

Officials with the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Assn. said that Detroit, which is hosting the next Super Bowl, expects that visitors will fill 23,000 hotel rooms and pour up to $400 million into the economy there.

That means Lawrence, along with St. Joseph, Mo., and Topeka, would see some spillover from a Kansas City event.

"People would be booking rooms in outlying communities," said Jill Raines, vice president of marketing communications with the association. "I would anticipate your airport, your hotels, your restaurants, your retail would all benefit from the Super Bowl."

Lawrence already sees an uptick in business on race weekends at the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County. A Super Bowl, officials said, would dwarf those events.

"We certainly would be aggressive in our marketing to pull folks over," said Rick Bryant, chairman of Lawrence's Aviation Advisory Board, which oversees operations at the municipal airport. "An event of that size would take over hotel space throughout the metro area; it would be a good deal for everybody."

"We like the January time frame," said Judy Billings, director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau. "That's when our hotels need the business the most."

'Pay heed'

At KU, officials said little thought had been given to using a Super Bowl to pitch the university. But spokesman Todd Cohen said the Jayhawks could celebrate their contributions to the game.

After all, Naismith, the inventor of basketball and KU's first hoops coach, is also credited with inventing the football helmet, using a sliced-up football, before he arrived in Kansas.

"Since he invented the helmet, it'd be nice if the NFL threw a bone in our direction," Cohen said. "We could invite people to come over and pay heed to Naismith."

Magerl, meanwhile, suggested a Super Bowl could be a big distraction for his restaurant.

"I've already got employees angling for tickets," he said. "We may not be able to staff that day."

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