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Super Bowl LII delivering business to our doorstep

The New Richmond Regional Airport will be open during the entire Super Bowl LII event. There may be 35 aircraft on the ground at one time in New Richmond during that week’s festivities. The game is scheduled to be held on Feb. 4, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Photo courtesy of Mike Demulling

Ready, set, party! No, really party, as in Super Bowl party!

Super Bowl LII (52) is being promoted as the ultimate party, 10 days of non-stop, mind-blowing (possibly mind numbing) activities ranging from zip lining across the MIssissippi River to the 2018 Super Bowl Experience, a 500,000 square-foot interactive NFL themed games and activities park, to Super Bowl Live, a daily party featuring live music, food and uniquely Minnesota attractions.

Another way to measure the volume of this party is logistics and economics. The last time Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl in 1996, number XXVI, at the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome, the event literally consisted of a weekend of activities leading up to the main event, a football game Sunday afternoon. The face value of a ticket to that game was $275 but it most likely would have cost you around $415 to actually purchase. A 30-second television spot for that game cost $1,085,000. That same 30-second spot for this year's game will cost you $5 million. A ticket to Super Bowl LII will cost you $2,500 to $3,000 or more depending on which teams end up in the big game. Projections put the estimated economic impact of the party regionally at $400 million plus.

The Twin Cities alone will be hard pressed to come up with enough hotel rooms to accommodate the more than one million visitors expected, let alone taxis and limos to transport the corporate and celebrity crowd from party to party and that's where it gets interesting for New Richmond.

"We're not exactly sure what to expect at this point. So this could be really great, or it could be business as usual. We're preparing for just about everything," said Mike Demulling, Airport Manager at New Richmond Regional Airport.

Everyone is trying to get their employer or employees as close to the event as possible and that includes lots of superstar athletes and A list celebrities like halftime entertainer, Justin Timberlake.

Most pilots will start in Minneapolis and then work their way to St. Paul and some of the outer ring airports and then New Richmond and Eau Claire, Duluth and Rochester.

"New Richmond is located in a perfect spot in relation to the Super Bowl. We're just outside the restricted air space by about a mile and a half. That means that we can stay open during the entire event. Basically from our airport, it's two right turns and you're at U.S. Bank Stadium. This is what we've been planning for, for the last 20 years," said Demulling.

The New Richmond Airport was always going to figure into the transportation equation for Super Bowl LII, but the new St. Croix Crossing Bridge has made it an even more favorable gateway to the big game.

"The bridge has helped us from day one. It has certainly changed the perception that we are way off in the distance. It just brought New Richmond that much closer to the Twin Cities," said Demulling.

Now that the airport is no longer a secret, Demulling, the airport's only full-time employee, explained how his facility has been preparing for the opportunity presented by the Super Bowl.

"Everything is being coordinated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). So far, we've had several meetings. There's a reservation system for aircraft coming into just about all of the airports in the Twin Cities plus Rochester, Mankato, Faribault and Owatonna. The reservation system starts on the Tuesday before and continues until the Monday after. Any of the aircraft that are coming in for the Super Bowl have to have a reservation including here in New Richmond. We've done the math and we've told the FAA we can have up to 35 aircraft on the ground at one time. That's a mix of aircraft parked down on the south end, parked on the north end and filling up some of our taxiways. That's what we can safely and efficiently accommodate.

"What will happen during that week depends a lot on the weather. If the weather is going to be bad, I would anticipate a lot less traffic. Temperatures in the 50's would be absolutely perfect," explained Demulling.

To arrive at 35 as the number of planes New Richmond can handle during the Super Bowl, Demulling used an app to figure how much space he has available and the configuration most conducive to getting planes in and out depending on their schedules. That app also helped him figure out a snow-plowing plan.

"I think about it every day, every day. We need to have bare pavement on runways. We have to plan ahead because we can't have any snow banks where we normally put snow because we could potentially have aircraft parked there. So we have to start planning now where we are going to move the snow," explained Demulling.

The New Richmond Regional Airport (RNH) is the second largest in Wisconsin as measured by based aircraft, 196, second only to Kenosha. The airport sits on 424 acres with a 5500-foot runway capable of landing almost any mid-sized business aircraft and larger aircraft under certain circumstances. It is home to the most hangars in the state, 98, with room to build more. It is also a non-towered airport like the majority of airports around the country.

"Our airspace above us is controlled by Minneapolis Approach. The radar station is located in the basement of the air traffic control tower in Minneapolis. They control the airspace in a 40-mile radius around Minneapolis. If there is a business aircraft that wants to come into New Richmond, they have to talk to Minneapolis Approach. Once the pilot has visual contact with the airport, they broadcast on a common frequency and are allowed to come in," said Demulling.

When it comes to the Super Bowl, Demulling expects plenty of pilots to take advantage of the New Richmond resource.

"We expect some of the fractional companies like NetJets, Flight Options and Flexjet, to fly their passengers in and then leave. That's how their systems operate We've reached out to those companies and told them of our capabilities and offered office space if they want to locate an agent here to help with their passengers," said Demulling.

Other companies will opt to drop their passengers in Minneapolis and park their aircraft at New Richmond.

"Our biggest challenge right now is ground transportation. We're still dealing with some hurdles there. Our local taxi is likely to be swamped. We've got two courtesy cars here at the airport and a few rental cars. Enterprise Rental has mentioned that they will help us out, but looking back to the Republican Convention held in 2008, every single limo and towncar in the Cities was booked. It was tough. We're going to need some help. We expect our local hotels to be slammed," said Demulling.

As far as help at the airport, beside Demulling there are a handful of part-time employees on the city payroll and a few part-time people involved in running the fuel business. Volunteers will be relied on to help get operations up to the capacity needed to meet the Super Bowl rush.

"We're really going to count on volunteers. Having some type of general aviation experience certainly helps. We'll need people to help load bags and just assist with some of the ground handling aspects. Over the last couple years we've used volunteers for plowing during big events, so we're going to make sure we have enough trained people to help run the airport side of things including plowing. We can also call on the city if necessary. The airport will stay open 24/7 during the Super Bowl run," said Demulling.

Demulling is also coordinating with New Richmond Police Chief Craig Yehli, to insure security at the airport during the Super Bowl stretch will be equal to the task.

"The airport will be manned 24/7. We'll have a police presence here at the airport and they will help us patrol. There's going to be a lot of activity at the airport. We want to make sure the property that is here is secure. The people coming in are going to want to have their equipment secure as well. Some of the aircraft coming in are fairly expensive. It's going to feel more like a metropolitan airport for a week. We just want to make sure that the airport is at an all-time high security level," said Demulling.

Demulling has been planning for this event for the past year and he knows his airport will be ready. It's an opportunity New Richmond cannot afford to miss and Demulling knows the airport will play the leading role in making a lasting impression on visitors as they begin their Super Bowl adventure in New Richmond.

The FAA reservation system is scheduled to open two weeks before the Super Bowl but Demulling expects things to really begin ramping up in mid December. He and Airport Customer Service Representative MaryKay Rice have been busy purchasing everything from extra wheel chocks to luggage racks. They plan to keep their regular airport tenants and business customers informed of the schedule and any new developments via the monthly newsletter. As the event nears, additional daily updates will be available on social media. The airport plans to host its own Super Bowl party including a giant 12-foot screen on which to watch the game along with all the amenities.

"This will probably be the biggest aviation event this area has ever seen aside from Oshkosh and probably bigger than any other Super Bowl. We are anticipating a lot of traffic coming and going, up to a plane every half hour and New Richmond will certainly be playing its part. We want to give people the impression that this is a well run airport, that New Richmond is a great place to visit and that we know what we're doing. We want folks to feel comfortable leaving their plane in our possession," Demulling said. "It's a lot of worry. But to me it's a chance to utilize the full potential of the airport. On the airport side of things, on the City side of things, we're ready.

"The indirect impacts are pretty important. People will be getting a first impression of New Richmond at the airport. We want to make sure we put out the red carpet to make people remember our facility and our city so they want to come back here to do business. People will be staying at the hotels, eating at our restaurants, using the taxi service, renting cars and so forth. That is where we really see the benefit to New Richmond."

To volunteer, contact Demulling at 715-246-7735 or mike@nrairport.com.

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