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Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake near Brainerd reports an uptick in reservations related to Minneapolis hosting the Super Bowl at the U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4. Submitted photo

Brainerd lakes area resorts hope to win big Super Bowl weekend

BRAINERD, Minn.—Grand View Lodge is more than two hours away from the Twin Cities, but come Super Bowl weekend, the Gull Lake resort will be rolling out the red carpet for the money-spending guests.

Brainerd lakes area resorts are hoping to capitalize on the expected influx of visitors for the championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis Feb. 4.

"We have seen an uptick for that weekend in particular, which is abnormal," said Frank Soukup, director of marketing for Cote Family Destinations, which manages Grand View Lodge, a vacation destination since 1916. "People are making bookings."

The Minneapolis Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints in a thrilling, last-second win Sunday, Jan. 14, and will play against the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday's NFC Championship Game. Dubbed the "Minnesota Miracle," the win against the Saints has fans fervently hoping for another victory.

"Usually, we're pretty busy, but it's busy a lot earlier," Soukup said. "Basically, what we're hearing is that people just don't want to deal with it down there—whether 'it' be the traffic, the people or the mayhem, so they just want a place that they can come up and get away."

Soukup said people are making reservations to stay at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa sooner because of the upcoming Super Bowl.

"We're not past last year's numbers for reservations, but I foresee that we will be. People have been purchasing further out for that weekend, and what they are saying on the phone is that they just don't want to be down in the Cities for that weekend," he said.

"We still have some availability, but I'd say when most people would be booking that weekend in the middle of January, they started booking back in December. Truthfully, that weekend probably won't sell out, but I foresee the numbers being larger than next year."

Another local winter event is benefiting from the Super Bowl through increased exposure to what the lakes area has to offer this time of year.

The Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza is the largest charitable ice fishing contest. Founded in 1991, the event has been held annually about 10 miles north of Brainerd and will take place on Gull Lake Jan. 27.

"I definitely would say, too, that we're seeing a lot of requests from media coming up for the week prior to the Super Bowl for the Ice Fishing Extravaganza, so that's pretty exciting and a great focus on our community," Soukup said.

Grand View Lodge is not offering any Super Bowl-related discounts or savings to entice or attract customers or guests to stay, but the lodge hopes to cash in on the hoopla.

"We're making sure that our guests know that we're throwing a big Super Bowl party for them, so they can come up here to the cabin and kind of relax and enjoy the Vikings winning the Super Bowl from up here in Brainerd," Soukup said.

"Our Northwoods Pub has a huge Super Bowl party, and we have a big pizza and appetizer buffet and beer specials, and we do a lot of fun games during the football game."

Soukup said he has even heard that those making reservations are doing so because they are renting out their residences in an effort to capitalize on an expected shortage of lodging in the Cities—the first-ever Super Bowl to be played at the newly-built U.S. Bank Stadium.

"I've heard of one couple in particular that was renting out their condo in Minneapolis," he said.

Not all resorts are seeing the same influx of reservations. Dave Gravdahl of Breezy Point Resort said the resort remains largely unaffected by the Super Bowl next month in Minneapolis.

"We've got our regular crowd of hockey people for tournaments that weekend, but most other units are not being filled, and they are filled the weekend before and the weekend after, so it's really taking away a little bit of what we do in the wintertime," Gravdahl said.

"We've done a mailing that's Super Bowl-related, but we haven't gotten anything from it. ... We're doing our regular winter discounts that we normally would do, but we're just passing it on, but we're putting a 'Super Bowl' title on it," said John Kavanaugh, general manager of Kavanaugh's Sylvan Lake Resort.

"I'm hoping that as we get a little closer to the date that we will get reservations from it. We don't anticipate reservations from people that are coming to the Super Bowl. We expect reservations from people who want to get out of the Cities and get out of the rat race for the weekend."

Nancy Krasean, the marking manager of Cragun's Resort and Hotel on Gull Lake, said she has not heard anyone inquiring about making a lodging reservation specifically related to Super Bowl weekend, although the resort is almost completely reserved for that weekend.

"We're hoping—as a kind of a general interest story—that the media will pick up the Jaycees fishing tournament the weekend before ... to kind of focus on the Brainerd area, but we're not expecting a lot of people wanting to come up and experience 29 below," she said chuckling.