By Victoria Cavaliere
Nightly rates at a no-frills, budget hotel in West Orange, N.J., average around $100 for a queen room outfitted with a coffee maker and basic cable television. But for several days in early February, the same Best Western will be charging 10 times that amount, asking guests attending the Super Bowl XLVIII in the nearby town of East Rutherford to shell out $1,000 for a room. "It's a lot of money," hotel manager Brian Cassara concedes, adding that he hopes sports fans "will pay these exorbitant prices to come to the game."
The National Football League estimates that about 400,000 people will descend on northern New Jersey for the Feb. 2, 2014, championship game at MetLife Stadium (pictured above), about 10 miles (16 km) from New York City. The event is expected to bring in more than a half billion dollars in economic activity to the New York-New Jersey area. That vision has put dollar signs in the eyes of hotel operators, homeowners and apartment dwellers in the region's already pricey real estate market, with some of the advertised lodgings seen as the most expensive ever for a Super Bowl, observers say.
To attract high-end guests, some homeowners are throwing in incentives like chauffeurs, stocked bars, and gift certificates for dinner or a massage. "There's a lot of hotels, businesses and commercial real estate owners who are cashing in on this event and taking the opportunity to make a buck. So, why wouldn't Joe Homeowner give it a shot?" said Bill Ryan, managing director of Super-Bowl-Rentalz.com, a site launched last year solely to link Super Bowl attendees with short-term rentals.
Historically, hotels in Super Bowl host cities see a significant uptick in prices as well as bookings for the week of the annual sporting event and, anticipating demand, they often raise prices months in advance. During the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans, the hotel occupancy rate was above 96 percent and prices at hotels like the Marriott booked for $1,500 on game night, according to TravelClick, which tracks bookings and prices.
With the New Jersey game weeks away, some hotels have boosted rates "in anticipation that people will pay whatever they have to pay," to secure lodgings, Cassara said. Hundreds of homeowners and apartment dwellers have listed their abodes on websites such as HomeAway, Airbnb and Craigslist, charging up to $10,000 a night for a sprawling mansion or $750 a night for a tiny studio. The listings include private residences in New York and New Jersey's toniest neighborhoods.
"There's a couple of homes in Saddle Brook (New Jersey) that are actually just huge. They are coming in at a price of $35,000 for the week," Ryan said. One of them is a 5,700-square-foot Saddle Brook home on 1.7 acres of land, with four bedrooms, four baths, a two-story foyer, an in-home gym and daily maid service. "Then we have a place in Hoboken (New Jersey) that's getting a lot of attention. And they are asking $10,000 a night," Ryan said.
The four-bedroom, three-bath apartment is in one of the most prestigious condominiums, Maxwell Place, with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline across the Hudson River. Garrett Larson, owner of a two-bedroom townhome in Montclair, N.J., says renting his residence for several days during Super Bowl will mean "paying bills and paying off debt." His Craigslist posting asks $8,000 for six nights for lodgings "15 minutes to stadium and all the dining and nightlife of northern New Jersey."
He hasn't had any takers yet, but remains hopeful. "I'm assuming all the local hotels are more expensive or already gone for the week," Larson said.
New York City, with some 90,000 hotel rooms, is also trying to capture its share of Super Bowl guests, boasting the city's tourist attractions and access to public transportation. Kimpton Hotels, which operates four properties in Manhattan, is offering a Super Bowl promotion that includes viewing rooms for fans who are worried that stadium seats might be too cold. The package requires a minimum three-night stay, with King rooms ranging in price from $476 to $789, nightly. The prices are nearly double the regular rates in January.
Five-star properties Ritz-Carlton and Sofitel are offering three-night packages, complete with an end-zone ticket, access to a pre-game event and round-trip transport to the stadium. Prices start at $5,635 per person, double occupancy. So far, hotels and homeshare sites all say business has been steady, although not brisk. But they are keeping prices high in anticipation of a surge of bookings after the competing teams are decided and the NFL releases the last major wave of game tickets for sale.
"About 80 percent of the people going to the game don't know it yet and won't until mid-January," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.
McCarthy said the NFL has lowered the price of the cheapest seats this year to $500, compared with $650 last year. Despite the cost per ticket, McCarthy said this Super Bowl will sell out like all previous events. "The Super Bowl is the most desirable ticket in the world. If we could build a stadium to fit 500,000 people we still could not accommodate all the requests," he said.
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