ITT Chiefs Forgot About the Super Bowl : Company to Hold One of the Few Non-Football Affairs in San Diego

Times Staff Writer

ITT Corp.'s Defense Communications Division here always holds its annual meeting during the last week in January. And, because ITT also owns the Sheraton Hotel chain, the meeting is always held at one of Sheraton's two hotels on Harbor Island.

This year, the last week in January turned out to be Super Bowl week.

But the ITT division plans to hold its meeting--even though it will be the only non-Super Bowl event to be staged at either Sheraton hotel during the entire week.

"We made a tactical error," ITT spokesman Bernie Wagner said Monday. "I hope we'll be able to find parking spaces out there on Thursday."

Only a Handful

If a business meeting doesn't in some way involve the Super Bowl, chances are it won't be taking place this week at the many San Diego County hotels that each day present dozens of daily meetings for local and out-of-town companies.

Only a handful of non-football meetings are scheduled in San Diego this week, according to the Convention & Visitors Bureau. And all of those meetings will end by Thursday night.

That dearth of non-Super Bowl-related meetings was generated in part by the National Football League, which more than a year ago reserved about 12,000 rooms and most of the banquet and meeting facilities at many of San Diego's premier hotels.

The NFL only recently told those hotels that some of the reserved meeting and banquet facilities would not be needed during the coming week. That announcement opened up a few meeting-room vacancies at the Sheraton Grand and Sheraton Harbor Island hotels, according to Sheraton spokeswoman Nancy Eckis.

ITT grabbed the empty Sheraton meeting room because of simple logistics, Wagner said: Every year in late January, the division's Nutley, N.J.-based president travels to the West Coast to attend a trade show in Anaheim and the meeting in San Diego.

"We forgot to notice that it would be the Super Bowl week," Wagner said. "The only real trouble was finding hotel rooms (for the president) but we solved that."

The coming week is the only time in recent history that hotels with meeting rooms and catering services acted as order takers instead of salespeople, according to Arthur Levey, director of sales at the Bahia Resort Hotel on Mission Bay.

"I've been in the business for 35 years and I've never seen anything like this," Levy said. "Oh, we've got some of our regular customers here this week, but it's all football-related.

"I did have one non-Super Bowl meeting, but they canceled because of bad turnout. Nobody would want to be here this week if they're not going to the game. People have called for meeting rooms but when I tell them it's Super Bowl week they say, 'Forget it' and hang up."

Levey on Monday learned that some of his rooms will house the cheerleaders for the Washington Redskins, who are staying at the nearby Hyatt Islandia.

'Scantily Clad Cuties'

"We'll have 40 or so beautiful, scantily clad cuties who will be practicing every morning (outside the hotel)," Levey said. "That could be distracting for anyone who wants to hold a business meeting."

At the U.S. Grant, which reserved the bulk of its guest rooms and facilities for the NFL and various corporations that reserved rooms through the NFL, only two non-football groups are present. Those organizations, involving educators and lawyers, will clear out by Thursday night.

"I guess there will always be somebody who has to stay and work," observed Chris Venner, the Grant's managing director.

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