HOUSTON — Players from 30 of the 32 NFL teams will have nothing more than a watching interest in Super Bowl LI, but that won’t stop a stream of football stars from heading here with victory on their mind.
While the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons are seeking to get their hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy, for the rest triumph can be attained through bragging rights measured not on a scoreboard, but in revs per minute and square footage.
“The athletes are competitive on and off the field, and they want everything to be perfect,” Mykel Walker, a Houston entrepreneur who arranges luxury accommodation and vehicles for visiting clients, told USA TODAY Sports. “They look forward to this, they want to enjoy their time off, they have a budget for it, and nothing but the best will do.”
The Houston market is prepared for a steady stream of NFL celebrities to make their way to town, and the anticipated influx has sent prices skyrocketing.
“We have a lot of high-profile guests coming to town, and there is a lot of work at the back end making sure our staffing is correct to make sure we take care (them),” Matthew Vesely, director of sales and marketing for the St. Regis Houston, said.
“It is very important for us to understand and anticipate what they will want. Things like a butler service … or finding a reservation at a local restaurant is very important. We find is that the amount of services that are requested dramatically changes.”
Vesely’s property includes a lavish presidential suite complete with library, full kitchen and two fireplaces. It has long been booked for Super Bowl week, but if it were to be resold, could command a price of around $20,000 per night.
If the players lead the way in the style and spending stakes, they get a run for their money from athletes from a wide array of other sports, plus a typical collection of recording artists, business luminaries and those with a few (or a few thousand) spare dollars scorching a hole in their pockets.
“It is a good time,” boxer Floyd Mayweather said after heading to the Phoenix area during the week of Super Bowl XLIX. “A lot of people and a lot of crazy stuff going on.”
It also is an opportunity to make a splash. Mayweather and his then-pal 50 Cent brought traffic to a standstill in Indianapolis five years ago, cruising around the streets in a giant bus to promote his fight with Miguel Cotto later that year.
“It has been all everyone is talking about for the past few weeks,” Houston student Sam Richardson, 22, said. “Rumors are flying all around. Someone said Taylor Swift and her entourage booked out a certain restaurant, or that some football guys have booked a bunch of supercars and that Antonio Brown is bringing a bunch of people. Celebrity spotting is going to be one of the biggest activities for the locals.”
Walker, the entrepreneur, is renting out a luxury property close to downtown for $6,000 a night, but is doing an even brisker trade with his vehicle company, Private Club Exotics.
Top of the line cars are a hot commodity for Super Bowl week, with NFL arrivals not much interested in Uber, Lyft or a Ford Focus from the rental counter. Something shiny, new, rare and exclusive is on the menu, and it doesn’t come cheap.
“Just like the housing market, the market on the vehicles has gone up,” Walker said. “It is because of availability. The SB brings out the luxury lifestyle because it is only once a year.
“The players want to experience that because they know the who’s who is going to be there.”
Walker said the “reigning champ” among vehicles is the Lamborghini Huracan, an extraordinary vehicle widely desired by incoming NFL players. The car costs $200,000 and up brand new and will set a connoisseur back around $8,000 on Super Bowl weekend, approximately double the typical rental price.
Given that it is not the kind of car for running errands, the vehicle might be driven no further than to and from the airport, and maybe to a party and back.
There is certainly no shortage of those, too, providing extra opportunities for the football players to part with some cash. Club Nomadic, a short walk from Walker’s home listing, is a 62,500 square foot, three-floor, temporary nightclub that can hold 9,000 people and will host parties headlined by Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift.
Some of the most popular themed parties will be back, including those hosted by Rolling Stone, EA Sports, Playboy and Maxim magazines, while a cigar event with Mike Ditka and Ron Jaworski might offer a more sedate pace.
Yet for all the festivities that excitement that will be enjoyed by the NFL’s elite, there surely will also be a tinge of jealousy from many as they see the Falcons and the Patriots preparing for a shot at ultimate glory.
“A lot of people will be having a lot of fun,” Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo said. “But the most fun of all is trying to win a Super Bowl. Every single player wants that.”