A hungry, thirsty and free-spending horde of Super Bowl visitors descended on San Diego hotels this week, an invasion that local hostelries began planning for weeks in advance with a mixture of trepidation and excitement.
Big San Diego hotels, most of which were booked solid for the week leading up to the game, prepared for the crowd by stockpiling food and beverages at rented warehouses, by bringing in extra security to protect teams and celebrities from the curious and criminals, and by increasing service to meet the high expectations of the guests.
"The Super Bowl is definitely an extraordinary event. You don't understand the magnitude until you're around it, the dollars spent and the sheer activity. Not even the Los Angeles (1984) Olympics came close," said Erich Steinbock, general manager of the Westgate Hotel in downtown San Diego.
An 'Oasis' From the Hype
The Westgate, a luxury-class, 223-room hotel that is playing host to the American Broadcasting Co. brass as well as officials of cities represented in the game, is an "oasis away from the hype" during Super Bowl week, Steinbock insisted.
"You won't see any Super Bowl mai tais served in our bar. Instead of concentrating on gimmicks, we'll make sure that the people who come here will be waited on hand and foot," Steinbock said.
The Westgate has added about 20 extra maids, butlers and kitchen workers--on loan from six other hotels owned by the Westgate's parent firm, Salt Lake City-based Little America Hotels & Resorts--to better serve its guests.
Less than half a mile away, the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina is anything but an oasis during game week. The 1,364-room two-tower hostelry, which is the headquarters hotel for the National Football League staff and most of the national news media covering the game, is the Super Bowl nerve center. It has been busy there ever since the NFL temporarily moved its offices there from New York three weeks ago.
Entertainers Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli, who will be performing in San Diego tonight, are also booked into the San Diego Marriott this weekend, hotel officials said.
"The city has never seen anything like this," said Harold Queisser, marketing director at the San Diego Marriott.
Queisser is no stranger to Super Bowls. He held the same job last year at the Anaheim Marriott when it was host hotel for the news media for Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena. He said perhaps the biggest near-disaster for the Anaheim Marriott last year occurred when the hotel nearly ran out of liquor the day before the game.
Queisser transferred to San Diego in October, when Marriott took over the former Hotel Inter-Continental on the bayfront.
The huge hotel has increased its staff from 1,000 to 1,400 for the game and has stationed refrigerated tractor-trailers on the premises to keep ample food and drink on hand. In fact, to meet what Queisser expects to be a nearly insatiable demand for food and drink from hotel guests and visitors, San Diego Marriott planners have set up bars and fast-food counters throughout the hotel.
Much of that demand is due to the thirst and hunger of visiting news media, many of whom have been doing live broadcasts from the the hotel this week. ESPN and CNN cable television networks, for example, scheduled live national half-hour sports programs from the San Diego Marriott the entire week leading up to the game.
The Marriott's security, which averages eight guards per eight-hour shift, was doubled for Super Bowl week to protect hotel guests from what Queisser calls an onslaught of thieves, prostitutes and "looky-loos" who try to wander through the hotel. "They follow the money," Queisser said.
The hotel is also charged with tending to the 175 automobiles that the NFL has at its beck and call this week.
For Reint Reinders, general manager of the La Jolla Marriott, the 360-room host hotel to the American Football Conference champion Denver Broncos, Super Bowl week brings two extraordinary c1769104245the high volume of walk-in traffic hoping to rub shoulders with players, media and celebrities.
"We normally run close to full occupancy, so that aspect of Super Bowl won't be anything new," Reinders said.
What is new for his hotel, Reinders said, is coping with the large numbers of media invading the hotel for interviews or live shows from the lobby. Because so many of the reporters arrive in mobile vans for live microwave "feeds," parking problems also become a headache.
To alleviate the parking crush, the La Jolla Marriott worked out cooperative agreements with neighboring office buildings for the use of their parking spaces during game week.
The Sheraton Harbor Island East is host to National Football League Properties, which is the football league's marketing, licensing and advertising arm. It too has stocked extra food, drink, plastic cups, plates, dry goods and ice at a nearby warehouse.
The staff of the Sheraton Harbor Island, which combined with its sister hotel Sheraton Grand totals 1,100 rooms, will not be increased much, if at all, from the 700 regular employees, general manager Edward Kissane said. "Quite frankly, we are not going to do an awful lot differently," Kissane said.
But he said the hotel is putting its best possible foot forward, aware that the Super Bowl provides an "opportunity to shine, to convince visitors who ordinarily might not be considering San Diego."
"We'll service people to death to make sure that everyone who comes here is favorably impressed. (Sheraton) spends millions on advertising and marketing a year and here is an opportunity for a real media event," Kissane said.