The biggest sporting event of the year is finally here and Gilroy businesses hope it will bring visitors 30 miles south.
Super Bowl 50 on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara caps off nine days of special events held in San Francisco drawing an estimated one million visitors to the area.
While the ultimate battle between the top teams of the NFL, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, is taking place amid the business parks of Santa Clara, the local business community hopes the attention the world-class event brings to the region will spill over into Gilroy.
“This is a great opportunity for our local businesses to take advantage of additional visitors to our area,” said Mark Turner, CEO of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. “The wine trail, restaurants, lodging properties and others should see some more activity as Super Bowl crowds look for extracurricular activities within our region.”
Gilroy has gotten some love and publicity from media during the buildup to the game, and officials say it could help prepare them for the bigger local sporting event—what they describe as Gilroy’s Super Bowl—the first U.S. Women’s Golf Open in the South Bay. That event in the first week of July is estimated to bring in 200,000 visitors and $20 million in tourist dollars.
For now, however, locals are curious about the trickle-down from the game in Santa Clara.
“It is exciting to have it right here in our backyard,” said Linda Graham, proprietor of Gilroy Antiques on Monterey Street in downtown Gilroy.
The shop, which features goods from 28 local antique dealers and regularly attracts out-of-towners looking for a good deal, was one of a few downtown shops and restaurants highlighted in a recent article called “50 Perfect Hours: Gilroy and Watsonville,” on the official Super Bowl 50 website.
Graham said she does not know if the shop, unlike restaurants and wineries, which are more attractive to tourists, will see an increased number of shoppers because of the Super Bowl, but she hopes the media exposure will generate interest in the area and bring a number of those visitors back to the region for their next vacation.
“People get curious,” she said. “And if they haven’t been here before they will see that we are a very diverse community and very different from what they came to see in the stadium,” she said.
That difference is what promoters and event organizers have banked on as they head to Sunday’s main event.
As part of the winning bid that brought the Super Bowl back to the Bay Area—it was hosted at the Stanford stadium in 1985—the original pitchmen, as reported by the Mercury News, touted the region’s tourism hotspots, and included images of the Napa wine-growing region and Pebble Beach in their successful pitch to the NFL.
While it may seem a stretch to include Monterey County’s posh Pebble Beach in a bid to bring a major sporting event to a city more than 80 miles away, the pitch ultimately worked, focusing on the region as a tourist destination, not just the swanky metropolitan hub of San Francisco.
The media exposure Gilroy gets by its proximity to world-class events like the Super Bowl and the Women’s Open at CordeValle is “huge” says Jane Howard, executive director of Gilroy’s Welcome Center.
In the run-up to the Super Bowl, articles on the web have come out almost daily, with writers attempting to outdo each other with their “listicles” of top-things to do and see when travelling to the Super Bowl.
To help ensure Gilroy is present in the minds of Super Bowl spectators, the Welcome Center has placed a full-page ad in Discover Silicon Valley magazine, which will be distributed to visitors attending the Super Bowl. The Dispatch’s
“Visitors may want to get away from all the hectic excitement happening at the stadium,” Howard said.
Building upon the public relations opportunities events like the Super Bowl and Women’s Open affords, the Welcome Center has developed several campaigns around these events, she said. It has been working with the organizers of the Women’s Open as part of a community engagement committee that includes representatives from the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation and their counterparts in Morgan Hill.
Calling the Women’s Open at CordeValle “our Super Bowl” because of its proximity to Gilroy and relatively captive audience, the Chamber’s Turner said the event offers opportunities for local businesses.
“There are a number of vendors, suppliers and contractors needed to help prepare for the event as well,” said Turner. “The Chamber is coordinating with the operations team to provide a list of Chamber member businesses that can provide the services needed.”
Those interested, he added, can contact the Chamber to learn more about the opportunities. Businesses should have a good marketing strategy in place including a social media presence to capture a targeted segment of visitors to Gilroy.
The Welcome Center’s Howard said in preparation for major summer events, which in addition to the Women’s Open include the beloved Gilroy Garlic Festival and the start of Gilroy Gardens four-month visual spectacle, Illumination, her group is ramping up their advertising and outreach efforts. “You don’t get these types of major events this often.”
She said they just finalized a 90-second video about Gilroy that will be featured on United Airlines and Virgin America domestic flights during the month of April.
Included in the ad spot is a segment on Santa Clara Valley wineries, which the Welcome Center and partners aim to present to a global travelling audience.
“We are making a big push for our wineries,” Howard said.
Local wineries themselves are getting in on the action, coordinating special events for the Super Bowl, including Saturday’s “Super Barrel Tasting Day” featuring selected wineries in Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin along the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail.
Participating wineries from Gilroy include Fortino Winery, Solis Winery, Rapazzini Winery, Kirigin Cellars and Guglielmo Winery. This event will also be the first time visitors can sample the wines of La Vie Dansante Wines as well as new wines from Medeiros Family Wines, which along with Tass Vineyards & Winery will be pouring at Blended, a Winemakers Studio.
Tickets to the event, which starts at noon, can be purchased on Saturday at any of the wineries or at the Gilroy Welcome Center.
Santa Clara Valley wineries are also working closely with the organizers of the Women’s Open at CordeValle to help get the word out about the region.
“It’s a real two-way cooperation, with the local wineries helping publicize the events to our customers as well,” said Paul Romero of Stephania Winery, one of five new wineries that opened along the wine trail last year, in an email to The Dispatch.
“We’re sure we will get visitors from the upcoming Super Bowl and with the Women’s Open at the doorstep of so many of our wineries we will continue our advertising and outreach efforts.”
Romero said he encourages their “great supporters in the South Valley” to come out and visit them during these major events because it is also the people of the region that make the area such a great place to visit.
“We know people get concerned about traffic and crowds but the people of the South Valley are our greatest promoters and their presence in our wineries and tasting rooms is an important part of the experience,” he wrote, adding that residents have a well-deserved reputation for being friendly and having a great sense of community.
“We know as we get national visitors they’ll appreciate not just the wines of the region but the people, too.”