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The logistics (and costs) of moving an NFL game

Nova Safo Nov 21, 2014
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The Buffalo Bills were supposed to play a home game this weekend against the New York Jets until a snowstorm blew through this week, dumping more than 6 feet of snow.

The NFL has moved the game to Monday night in Detroit, causing the Buffalo Bills to scramble with eleventh-hour travel arrangements Friday before they departed in the afternoon from their snow-buried hometown. 

The costs of the last-minute changes are likely adding up for the Bills: The list includes processing ticket refunds for fans and booking hotels on short notice.

The team is probably paying as much as a 30 percent premium on travel costs, says Kevin Green, director of football operations for the University of Kansas, where sports programs boast big budgets.  

When traveling with the team, Green typically has to account for anywhere from 100 to 170 people – a number that includes players, coaches and staff. Typical travel arrangements are made well in advance, Hotels are reserved a year ahead, and charter flights are booked several months in advance, Green says. Even food needs are signaled a week in advance. 

And teams have very specific needs. Not just any hotel will do. And not just any food either. 

“The hotel has to have conference space available for meetings, that typically limits those hotels to Hiltons, Marriotts, traditional business hotels,” Green says. “The food is very specific to individual players, positions. You’re looking for specific cuts of meat, proteins, carbs. That usually has to be ordered a week in advance.”

Vendors are likely benefiting from the Bills’ sudden venue change. And if enough fans follow their team to Detroit, the city could see a windfall. 

“We foresee the direct spending to be around $3 million,” says Deanna Majchrzak of the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau. “That will benefit our local hotels, restaurants, bars and other retailers.”

The bureau is basing that figure on an estimate that some 30,000 fans will head to Detroit for the game. When Detroit last hosted a displaced NFL game – in 2010 – about 46,000 fans showed up to see the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants play, Majchrzak says.

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