By Taylor Cammack
As the Super Bowl approaches, restaurants around Cowboys Stadium are gearing up for the crowds and the cashflow that come with the biggest sporting event in the U.S.
Deputy City Manager Trey Yelverton predicted an influx of more than 150,000 people coming to Arlington from outside the state. Accommodating a crowd of this proportion requires parking, shuttles and adequate space for tailgating – and many restaurants are providing just that.
For the Cici’s Pizza on Collins street right across from the stadium, pizza sales usually aren’t stellar during Cowboys’ games.
“The traffic down here gets really congested, so a lot of our local people may stay away from the area on event days,” said district manager Tim Weaver. “The amount of people in the area for the event sometimes makes up for it.”
The restaurant makes up for slow food sales by renting out their parking lots to event patrons. Parking in the stadium lots costs anywhere from $50-$150 depending on how close you want to be to the stadium. During a Cowboys’ game, Cici’s charges $60 and up for a spot, and that price may skyrocket when it comes to the Super Bowl.
“For the Super Bowl, I’ve heard a couple business nearby are going to be charging $500 per spot,” Weaver said. “Truthfully, I can’t imagine it getting that high, but $500 seems to be the going rate.”
He compared this to the fact that VIP parking for celebrities and top-dollar patrons was actually going to be further away from the stadium than Cici’s parking.
“They’re going to be three blocks further away than us,” Weaver said. “As far as getting close, you’ll never be able to park that close to the Super Bowl in your life.”
While their plan is to rent out their lot for parking and continue with food sales during the event, Nancy Hampton, Cici’s chief marketing officer, said she hopes Cici’s will be rented out by a large company or corporation to be used for client parking and tailgating.
“If that doesn’t happen, we’re going to conduct business as usual,” she said. “We’re going to try to keep the business open and sell our parking spaces at the going rate.”
Some restaurants, including next door to Cici’s at Fishbone Grill offer more than just parking for event patrons.
During stadium events, the parking lot behind the restaurant is used by part-owner VIP Sports Getaway to host parties complete with two buses, a disc jockey and loudspeakers.
Hosting these parties during a normal stadium event requires a festival permit and a special permit for having amplified sound.
But when the Super Bowl comes around, increased security and the arrival of national advertisers means changes in regulations.
The Arlington City Council established a mile-long “clean zone” around the stadium for the Super Bowl, with regulations that every business inside that area must follow, said Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck.
In order to protect national advertisers with the NFL, outdoor events within the clean zone would be regulated to ensure that businesses aren’t setting up displays and selling products such as football jerseys and other Super Bowl related paraphernalia unrelated to their primary business.
Manager Bill Helmsway said that the clean zone shouldn’t affect their festivities and that the major thing the restaurant is focusing on is getting ready for huge crowds.
“To tell you the truth, the main thing were focusing on is getting everything ready to accommodate the customers,” he said. “I don’t think there would be a business in the world that would be able to match a Super Bowl event.”
Helmsway predicted a 50 to 60 percent increase in sales during Super Bowl weekend.
While many restaurants are using parking and special events to draw in the crowd before and after the Super Bowl, one restaurant in particular is looking to retain patrons for the event itself.
Located two miles from the stadium, J. Gilligans Bar and Grill is catering to patrons wanting a taste of the event without the hassle of actually being at the event.
Owner Randy Ford described Super Bowl preparations in reference to a similar major sporting event to come to Arlington this year: the World Series.
“The World Series was a test run for us,” Ford said. “What the World Series allowed us to do is on one Saturday night have about 1000 people watching the game at our restaurant.”
During the games, Gilligans constructed a tent to house a television that was 18 feet tall by 33 feet wide.
For the Super Bowl, Ford said disc jockeys and bands would be booked for the entire week to create a more festive atmosphere and build anticipation for the event.
And, in his experience, having big events means making money.
“On the one Saturday night we had 1,000 people, we ran over $19,000,” Ford said. “On a normal Saturday, we will run somewhere around $5,000.”
And this isn’t just the standard for Cowboys games. Ford referenced the recent Cotton Bowl as another indicator that retaining customers means more money.
“A rule of thumb, we have a minimum of double in sales on game days,” he said. “We want to have people that come in before they go to the game and people that stay and watch the game.”
Gilligans employees, including Mandy Simpson, are looking forward to the crowds and the busyness of an event like the Super Bowl.
In one night during the World Series, Simpson made more than $200 in credit card tips alone.
“It was awesome and so much fun,” she said. “Sure, we’re a little overworked for that time, but we make bank.”
While businesses are preparing for the big game, Yelverton, as deputy city manager, said that businesses shouldn’t be focusing on short-term payoffs and just using the opportunity just to make a quick buck.
“Sure, I can point to plenty of people who have come to Arlington to have their activities and point to the dollars gained from the actual event,” he said. “But what you do is use the event to highlight your community.”
Yelverton said that the most important aspect while conducting business during the Super Bowl is to focus on the legacy of the city to keep the crowds coming back.
“The tourism boost is quick. There’s not going to be near-term payoffs,” he said. “When people see the kind of things the stadium hosts every year, they will want to be a part of what is going on.”