Super Bowl Tourism - - The News for South Mississippi

Super Bowl Tourism

New Orleans will be party central for Sunday's Super Bowl, but casinos and hoteliers in nearby South Mississippi hope to cash in too. Several of the dozen casino resorts on Mississippi's Gulf Coast have created packages to attract fans from St. Louis, New England and elsewhere. Some deals include tickets and roundtrip transportation to the game, which pits the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots in the Louisiana Superdome for the NFL championship.

The Mississippi Coast's gambling resorts and beaches are a little more than an hour's drive on Interstate 10 from the Crescent City. ``The Super Bowl is an ideal opportunity to get people to the Gulf Coast who may never have come before,'' said Mary Cracchiolo, public relations manager for the 1,800-room Beau Rivage hotel and casino in Biloxi. Beau Rivage's Super Bowl guests will include high-rollers from other casinos owned by parent company MGM Mirage Inc. in Las Vegas. The top players will stay at the Mississippi resort, receive transportation to and from the Superdome and watch the game from one of Beau Rivage's two luxury suites in the stadium. Rooms will be $199 per person next weekend, and Cracchiolo said she expects the place to be full. Grand Casinos, which has about 2,000 rooms at two properties in Biloxi and Gulfport, expects about 50 percent of its business next weekend to be Super Bowl related, said Steve Rosen, a marketing executive for parent company Park Place Entertainment's mid-South region. Grand will entertain VIP gamblers from the New York area and the West Coast, Rosen said. Some will ride to the game in limousines. Of course, they also will have ample time to play cards and throw dice in the casino. ``This is very big for us and the entire coast,'' Rosen said. ``A lot of these people wouldn't be here if not for the Super Bowl.''

Misty Velasquez, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau in Gulfport, said her agency was trying to get hotel packages and other information listed on the Web sites of each team. The coast has had a lot of success attracting Sugar Bowl visitors in past years, particularly when participants in the college matchup were from Florida. The Sugar Bowl typically is played New Year's Day in New Orleans. ``We know this is a fly-in game, and they're going to fly into New Orleans,'' Velasquez said. ``What we hope for is that people find information on us or might already be familiar with us and decide to visit.'' Velasquez predicts massive crowds next weekend in New Orleans, where the Carnival season also will be in full swing. Super Bowl festivities and the giant public parties that surround Carnival may be a bit much for some, who might opt for the coast's family friendly atmosphere, she said. ``I think there's going to be a great turnout,'' Velasquez said. ``I was watching the Eagles-Rams game Sunday and they mentioned New Orleans no less than 50 times. They were talking about the food and the music. I think there will be overflow, and some people will want our type of experience.'' Even some Mississippi cities well north of the coast expect to welcome Super Bowl travelers.

Lenore Barkley, who runs Vicksburg's tourism bureau, said she's confident that many Rams fans driving south to New Orleans on Interstate 55 will take the brief detour and explore the Mississippi River city's casinos and Civil War sites. ``I'm certain we'll see some additional traffic,'' Barkley said. ``St. Louis is a good regional market for us all the time.''

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