When football fans flood the Valley next week for Super Bowl XLII, they are expected to arrive in more than 1,000 charter flights and executive jets, along with the regularly scheduled full flights typical of the busy winter tourist season.
With Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport already jam-packed, other East Valley airports are expected to be prime landing spots for the super-sized load of VIP game-goers.
The New York Giants and New England Patriots will play Feb. 3 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Only 73,000 people, most of them out-of-towners, will have game tickets. But tens of thousands more will come to the Valley to help stage the extravaganza and the dozens of happenings and parties preceding the main event. Thousands more ticketless fans will come just to be part of the excitement.
Most of the visitors will show up days ahead, most arriving by air.
The Arizona Super Bowl XLII Host Committee formed a general aviation work group to sort out the hows and wheres of directing the anticipated onslaught of special flights, said Christina Estes, committee spokeswoman.
When the Valley hosted Super Bowl XXX in 1996, it also landed nearly 400 corporate and private jets and 40 30-seat or bigger chartered planes full of people en route to the big event, Estes said. Most recent Super Bowl host site Miami estimated 800 to 1,000 extra aircraft arrived there for the game and associated hoopla, she said.
The Federal Aviation Administration is gearing up for 1,000 private planes for Super Bowl XLII, and said Wednesday it will add extra personnel at Sky Harbor, Scottsdale, Glendale, Deer Valley, Falcon Field, Goodyear and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airports to keep air traffic flying smoothly.
It’s not surprising. The Super Bowl’s biggest attendance base consists of the corporate crowd and others wealthy enough to pop for the pricey hotel rooms and even pricier game tickets.
That includes top executives of the NFL and major television sponsors and their VIP clients, sports giants and A-list celebrities, most of whom have booked resort rooms in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley and would like to reserve parking spaces at Scottsdale Airport.
But they’ll be fighting with VIP golf lovers for those choice spots.
The FBR Open tees off Monday at the Scottsdale TPC, just a fairway length from the airport’s runway. Also a big draw for the country’s corporate leaders, the private planes will start arriving for the pro-ams as soon as Sunday, said Scott Gray, airport director.
“We expect as many as 250 (private planes), but at some point in time, we’ll be full. It could be as early as Thursday or Friday,” he said. “The Super Bowl is what will cause all airports in the Valley to run out of parking.”
Scottsdale can accommodate lots of flights, as long as pilots drop off passengers and leave, he said.
During Super Bowl XXX, planes ferrying fans and executives to and from Scottsdale Airport had to park as far away as Las Vegas, Gray said.
Mesa’s Falcon Field is expecting to get a lot of the overflow, said airport manager Corinne Nystrom.
“As soon as Scottsdale fills up, everybody comes to Falcon,” she said. “We’re just the next airport over.”
The north Mesa hub can park about 100 planes, Nystrom said, and land a lot more for quick turns.
Falcon Field’s fixed-base operators, which provide air services, are picking up reservations now and expect to get a lot more in the next few days, she said.
“It looks like we’re going to be pretty busy around here,” Nystrom said. “But we’re not concerned at all. We can get pretty creative.”
The Super Bowl aviation committee told Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, capable of accommodating much bigger planes, to expect as many as 250 of them next week, said spokesman Brian Sexton.
The reservations are starting to pour in — from charters full of Patriot fans and smaller business jets — and the airport is increasing staff to accommodate them, Sexton said.
At Chandler Municipal Airport, tarmac parking is full just with private users, but the airport has opened some spaces for guest planes, said Greg Chenoweth, airport manager.
The relatively small airport doesn’t expect to see too much Super Bowl business, he said.
“We’re guessing maybe 10 to 15 corporate jets, but we really don’t know what to expect,” Chenoweth said. “All we can do is plan to accommodate those who do show up.”