How does an airport get ready for a Super Bowl? My “At the Airport” column on USATODAY.com this month tackles the question.
With Super Bowl XLVI just a few days away, it’s already ‘game on’ at the Indianapolis International Airport (IND).
Like the New England Patriots and New York Giants, the team players at IND have spent months studying the playbook and practicing their moves: Public safety procedures have been tested. Security checkpoint hours have been tweaked. Offerings at shopping and dining outlets have been beefed up. And an enhanced team of Airport Ambassadors has gone through the special Super Bowl Super Service training program and is now on duty welcoming and assisting visitors.
“With original Indianapolis businesses throughout the terminal and employees that have had years of training focused on providing super service, IND will make a great first – and last -impression of the city,” said Evan Strange Marketing & Communications Coordinator for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association.
In addition to the “regular” passengers traveling through IND this week for non-Super Bowl-related purposes, the Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA) is expecting an increase of about 40,000 Super Bowl-bound passengers. It is also planning for an extra 75 commercial flights and at least 60 chartered ones.
Pre-game traffic has been arriving steadily, but is expected to pick up on Thursday. And, of course, pretty much everyone will head to the airport after the game on Sunday night.
If you’re headed that way, here’s what you’ll find at the airport:
Technology-wise, IND has added bandwidth to the free public Wi-Fi system, optimized its website for mobile users and rolled out an IND app. Cellphone service providers have also made upgrades to their infrastructure to accommodate increased mobile usage.
Indianapolis Airport resources
Security-wise, there will be extra police patrols throughout airport property and paramedic crews with be standing at the ready inside the terminal, instead of off-site. There will also be a specially trained Joint Hazardous Assessment Team on duty to deal with any suspicious packages or bags, so keep track of your belongings.
To assist sports fans on their journeys to and from the city, the airport has expanded the number of parking spots in the cellphone lot and issued temporary licenses to extra, authorized taxi drivers. During peak hours, there will be increased service on the public buses to and from the airport and, after the game is over, a remote airport employee parking lot will serve as an overflow lot for rental car returns.
The airport is also prepared for snow. Private contractors are on standby in case the airport needs them and the airport authority has purchased extra snow-removal equipment, including a giant, multi-use, snow-removal vehicle equipped with both a broom and a two-lane-wide plow.
Many passengers will likely be spending extra time at the airport, so most concessionaires have extended their hours and many kiosks and shops are offering licensed team merchandise and a wide variety of Super Bowl-themed souvenirs.
Just Pop In!, a local gourmet popcorn company with both a shop and a kiosk at the airport, has created commemorative Super Bowl tins and packaging and special Giants and Patriots popcorn flavors. “The team colors are very similar,” said Just Pop In! co-founder Mandy Selke, “But for the Giants we’ve mixed blueberry, cherry and plain white, salted popcorn. For the Patriots we mixed blueberry, cherry and our black cherry, which has sort of a gray color.”
The airport’s Enroute Spa is offering special Super Bowl-themed services that include the End Zone Spa Treatment. “For $38 guests can restore their sense of well-being with a 20-minute massage and, afterwards, receive an aromatherapy spa product they can take home,” said spa owner Erin Humphreys.
For souvenir-seekers, Lids Locker Room has set up an 80-foot-long pop up store and the Paradies Shops has created a sports-themed outlet with both Super Bowl merchandise and EA sports video games. The Collectors Den is selling a commemorative replica of the game coin used to determine possession at the start of the game and, on Sunday, gear celebrating this year’s Super Bowl champions will be rushed to the airport as soon as a winner is declared.
For those passengers trying to get out of Indianapolis after the game is over, the airport is urging everyone to arrive at the terminal at least three hours prior to their departure.
All airline ticket counters will be operating with expanded hours, with most opening at 3 a.m. on Monday morning. The TSA is also doing its part to help departures flow smoothly. Security checkpoints will be open round-the-clock from Sunday through to Monday and two extra screening lanes will be set up at each concourse entrance.
And a reminder: For those heading straight to the airport from Lucas Oil Stadium in the throes of celebration, keep in mind that beer is indeed a liquid.