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Detroit's 32,000 Hotel Rooms are Plenty to Satisfy 100,000 Super Bowl XL
 Visitors; Detroit Host Committee Not Setting Up House-rental Program
By John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Oct. 12, 2005 - Need a place to stay during Super Bowl XL? Bill Koczara may have the answer.

Koczara says he'll rent you his own home on Sunningdale Drive in Grosse Pointe Woods, or two other houses he owns not far away, for a price to be determined.

Carlton Nichols, meanwhile, says he'll move in with relatives for Super Bowl week so you can sub lease his eighth-floor condo with a view of the Detroit River in the 1300 Lafayette tower, a short walk from Ford Field.

They and many other metro Detroiters hope to cash in on Super Bowl XL to the tune of thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars by offering their houses and apartments for short-term rentals. But don't be surprised if they get no takers.

The National Football League and its local affiliate, the Detroit Super Bowl XL Host Committee, are trying to tamp down expectations of a windfall in private house rentals. They say metro Detroit's 32,000 hotel rooms are plenty to satisfy demand by the expected 100,000 out-of-town visitors coming for the league's championship game Feb. 5.

They also point out that local residents in previous Super Bowl cities have mostly failed to find renters for the homes, despite similar hopes.

"Ryder Cup is a recent lesson," says Gael Sandoval, manager of housing for the Detroit Super Bowl host committee, referring to the international golf tournament held in Oakland County in 2004 -- the first time the event had been held in Michigan. Similar hopes of high-priced private home rentals mostly fizzled.

"Very few people actually made any money and had a satisfactory experience with that," she says. "A lot of people had high hopes."

In Jacksonville, Fla., site of Super Bowl XXXIX this past February, about 6,000 local residents contacted a service set up by the local host committee to promote house rentals. But only 1,500 actually filled out the paperwork to get on the database, and only 300 of those actually got a contract to rent their homes.

Moreover, the lease rates were modest, a few thousand dollars per week, hardly ever the tens of thousands of dollars envisioned by the more hopeful.

Sandoval said the Jacksonville experience proved the service was so unnecessary that the Detroit host committee hasn't even bothered to set up a house-rental program. Metro Detroiters who want to rent their houses must contact a real estate service or pay to advertise.

Despite such downplaying by the experts, many local Detroiters still hope to share in the estimated $300 million that a Super Bowl generates for a local economy.

"As you well know, the real- estate market is zero right now. It's difficult to sell a home," Koczara, a contractor, says. He views the Super Bowl as "just an opportunity to make some extra money."

"I don't know what to ask" for his house rentals, he adds. "Everything is negotiable. It depends on the people, how many in the party."

Nichols hopes to be selective in renting his condo.

"I was looking for somebody, not a tourist, but some sort of news media," Nichols said. As for price, "I don't have any reference to that, but I was looking at something like $3,500 a week to a high of maybe $5,000."

Shirley Vasileff of Detroit-based Vasileff Realty says between eight and 10 residents in the downtown area have contacted her about leasing out their homes. Most hope to get between $10,000 and $20,000 for the week, figures that Sandoval says are unrealistic.

The NFL has reserved 19,000 hotel rooms in metro Detroit for its staff, the two competing teams, an expected 3,000 media representatives and the league's corporate sponsors and invited guests.

Most of the balance of Detroit's 32,000 area rooms will go to ordinary fans coming in for the game, including many who book in the final two weeks prior to kickoff after the league's two conference champions are selected.

One reason private house rentals don't succeed very well is that most Super Bowl visitors are part of corporate programs that require housekeeping, catering and other pampering, not just a place to lay one's head.

For that reason, Sandoval says, hotel rooms will be booked in Ann Arbor, Toledo and other cities beyond the metro area, while many private homes much closer to the festivities will go unrented. "People would drive a little bit farther to have the services they're going to get in a hotel," she says.

Even with a perceived shortage of hotel rooms in Jacksonville, the rental program there mostly flopped.

With about 25,000 hotel rooms in the greater Jacksonville area, the NFL had warned the local host committee that it would need closer to 30,000. So the committee booked cruise ships with an additional 3,600 cabins to dock at Jacksonville for the week. And the committee also contracted with a local real estate firm, Walter Williams Coldwell Banker , to operate a clearing house for locals who wanted to rent out their houses.

But Walter Williams, president of the firm, said that even the houses that did lease mostly drew a few thousand dollars for the week, up to a high of $25,000 for one large home. Astronomical sums sought by some owners drew no takers, including an asking price of $200,000 for a short-term rental of an 11-bedroom oceanfront house.

One tantalizing lead almost turned into a windfall for somebody, Williams said. The company received a request for a secure compound with a full range of housekeeping services. When the demands included that the house be free of all leather products, Williams guessed it might be for Paul McCartney, the entertainer and animal-rights activist who sang during the halftime show.

But the deal fell through at the last moment, and Williams never learned who the potential renter was.


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Copyright (c) 2005, Detroit Free Press

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