ST. GEORGE — Even with the Super Bowl less than a two-hour drive away, it is still likely someone will be able to find a vacancy at the hotels in St. George and Southern Utah. But the airport is going to be a full house. 

An official ball with the logo for the 2024 Super Bowl sits outside Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada, circa February 2024 | Photo courtesy of Super Bowl LVIII Host Committee, St. George News

Las Vegas is hosting the NFL’s Super Bowl for the first time this weekend, the main event pitting the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs at 4:30 p.m. MST at the Raiders’ home Allegiant Stadium.

While tourism officials describe local lodging demand on the Utah side of Interstate 15 as tepid, St. George residents should expect more air traffic than usual in the local skies. Officials with St. George Regional Airport say a plethora of private jets are expected to deliver those who can afford the $6,000 to $50,000 price that tickets for Super Bowl LVIII are currently going for on Ticketmaster.

“We expect in the time between (Friday) and Sunday and then cranking out again on Monday and Tuesday upwards of over 80 additional aircraft coming in,” Rich Stehmeier, the airport’s managing director, told St. George News. “It’s the Super Bowl. Some people are not even trying to go into Vegas. They’re just coming up here, landing here, catching a rental car or a limousine or whatever and then taking that hour and 45-minute drive back to Vegas.”

That also has the potential to add to what is already a packed I-15 in the Virgin River Gorge on Friday and Saturday.

St. George will also be an overflow parking space for many of the private and semi-commercial planes coming in to bring in fans for the “big game.”

The four airports in Las Vegas – Harry Reid International Airport, North Las Vegas Airport, Henderson Executive Airport and Boulder City Municipal Airport – report being “full” as far as landing and parking spots for the more than 1,000 private jets coming there in the coming days. Those airports, according to the Clark County Department of Aviation, have 475 parking spaces for private planes. 

“After that, if you want to fly in, it’s pretty much St. George,” Stehmeier said. He added Mesquite Municipal Airport can only handle planes dropping people off, but with nowhere to park, they would have to take off right away. 

Of all of the billionaires, dignitaries and celebrities arriving by private plane this weekend, one particular “anti-hero” has taken up most of the blank space of attention: Taylor Swift. 

In a file photo, private aircraft are lined up at the St. George Regional Airport. Those arriving for Super Bowl Weekend are more likely going to be of the private jet variety, St. George, Utah, Sep. 8, 2023 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The pop star, whose boyfriend Travis Kelce plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, is expected to attend the game after completing a show in Tokyo, Japan. That show would end around 11 p.m. MST on Friday night, giving Swift and either her own private jet or another charter plenty of time to make kickoff with an 11- to 12-hour flight back. 

“You know, as far as we know, the old Swifty is not coming this way,” Stehmeier said. “As far as we know, it is not going to happen. I’m sure they let her in there down in Vegas. I’ve had that question asked a bunch of times, but no, I don’t think we’re on the Swifty plan.”

But a different kind of plan has been underway.

Stehmeier says St. George airport officials have been preparing for months to take on the Super Bowl traffic and the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix in November proved to be a good dress rehearsal. 

“We’ve been working with the controllers and everybody else down in Vegas … probably for the last six months,” Stehmeier said. 

Without an air traffic control tower of its own – an issue that recently drew the interest of Gov. Spencer Cox – controllers in Los Angeles will handle all the traffic going in and out of the St. George airport. 

But Stehmeier said this weekend’s Super Bowl won’t be the sporting event with the biggest impact on the airport this year. He said pro men’s golf’s PGA Tour coming to Ivins in October will make the St. George area a center of the sporting world, and there may be a switching of roles with the Las Vegas airports handling an overflow from the St. George airport. 

Private aircraft arrives at St. George Regional Airport, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2022 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“The PGA will probably have twice the number of airplanes here that we’ll have for this one,” Stehmeier said of the Oct. 3-6 Black Desert Championship at the Black Desert Resort. “So everyone will want to come here and then the overflow will go to Cedar and Vegas. And then they’ll come up from Vegas.”

But residents of St. George not accustomed to hearing a lot of air traffic overhead like people do in Las Vegas and other major cities shouldn’t be surprised by a lot of activity above in the coming days.

“I would think maybe some people will notice it, but for the most part they’ll come in and park and then leave again,” Stehmeier said. “We’re expecting a full house this weekend.”

What won’t be a full house, local tourism officials say, are local hotels.

Brittany McMichael, director of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office, told St. George News that with Las Vegas having plenty of hotels to stay at, there aren’t signs of a super busy weekend ahead for local lodging operators. 

“This weekend is actually fairly soft,” McMichael said. “So it doesn’t sound like we’re feeling the Super Bowl impact at our local lodging properties.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.