SUPER BOWL SPECIAL : Tent Party Costs About $250 for Each Guest

San Diego County Business Editor

It has been called Super Bowl week's most exclusive party, one where an invitation--next to a ticket to the game itself--is considered one of the grandest gestures a company can make to a valued customer and the ultimate perk to a productive employee.

Thousands of those special people will participate in the all-day party on game day in "hospitality village," the tent compound that will take up nine acres of the parking lot at San Dieg1864387169companies renting space in the village will play host to up to 7,000 guests who will eat, drink and be merry before and after the game.

That, of course, leaves out the 67,000 other Super Bowl ticket holders who will have to munch on nachos and hot dogs rather than the elaborate spreads of eggs Florentine, poached salmon, chicken Marsala, sushi and other delights in the special corporate tents.

At an average corporate cost of $250 per person, space in the village doesn't come cheap. So companies carefully parcel out invitations to people they want to impress, such as top dealers, salespeople, business contacts or prospects. Guests will be restricted to the party to which they were invited, but some partygoers are expected to have invitations to more than one gala. Included in corporations' per-person party costs are food, beverages and rental of the tent and furniture. Companies pay extra for special entertainment and decoration.

And elaborate will be the word for some tents. One company is bringing in several tons of sand to create a South Pacific theme, and some companies will have two decorative themes--one for the before-game blast and a different one after the game.

Complimentary tickets to the Super Bowl often are given with invitations to the hospitality tent. Both often represent grand prizes in yearlong sales incentive programs.

Keith Prowse & Co. (USA) Ltd., the Atlanta-based firm contracted by the City of San Diego to produce and market the hospitality village, declined to disclose the names of corporate sponsors that have signed up to lease space, although Ford Motor Co. and Times Mirror Co. (publisher of The Times) are known to be two of the occupants.

Neil Scott-Barbour, president of Keith Prowse's U.S. operations, would say only that brewing, automotive, pharmaceutical, media, hotel and insurance companies are among the kinds of companies leasing space in this year's village, which will open at 11 a.m. on game day. Companies do not have to rent entire tents, which start about $7,500 for 30 people. They may, for example, rent a table for 10 costing $2,400 in the huge common tent.

Sources close to the event say the sponsors prefer to remain anonymous to avoid offending employees or customers who aren't invited. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Oct. 19 stock market crash, companies are not eager to project images as lavish party-givers.

At last year's Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena, Ford was the largest host with 1,200 guests, said Annette Ekstrom, an executive producer with Los Angeles-based Paulette Wolf Events and Entertainment, the company that staged last year's village. Ford was one of a group of automotive sponsors that included Nissan, Oldsmobile and Subaru.

Also renting space last year were G.D. Searle & Co., a pharmaceutical manufacturer; Polaroid and Epson computer company, Ekstrom said. Seats at last year's event also averaged about $250 per person with 20 corporations hosting a total of 5,000 guests. Wolf grossed about $4 million from rentals and extras.

"Most of the car companies did (the hospitality tents) in conjunction with a whole weekend of parties for dealers and salespeople," Ekstrom said. "It gives (the salespeople) something to work for all year."

Security will be as tight at the entrance to the hospitality tent as to the game, Scott-Barbour said, and will involve a set of non-transferable wrist bands and badges. Prowse's international headquarters are in England, where the company has produced hospitality areas at Wimbledon, the British Open golf tournament, the Henley Regatta and the British Grand Prix auto race.

The City of San Diego will receive a percentage of the gross revenues collected by Prowse from this year's party-givers--an agreed-to cut of 19% of the basic charge and 12% of extras.

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