Philip Ray has had a long week. As the General Manager of Indianapolis's Marriott Downtown, he's the man who's been charged with making the New York Football Giants comfortable before the Super Bowl on Sunday. There is a lot of food involved. Also, a fair amount of security. Ray is a veteran of two Final Fours, but he's quick to say that nothing really compares to the big game.
"It's just amazing how much goes on around the game and how big the game itself is," says Ray, who's got a little skin in the game after making a wager with the GM of the hotel currently hosting the Patriots. If his guests don't win, he'll be a doorman at University Place across town.
Ray doesn't expect to lose and isn't the sort of guy that goes into a game without a plan. He may be rooting for the Giants, but he talks like the Bill Belichek of hoteliers. He's been thinking about this for years and he's got more than a few plays up his sleeve.
Ray spoke to HuffPost Travel's Andrew Burmon on Friday afternoon.
Andrew Burmon: How to you prepare to host a team that is about to play in the Super Bowl?
Philip Ray: I've been on the host committee for two Super Bowls just to observe how other cities have dealt with the guest experience and how they've prepared so I'd know what to do here in Indy. So I gues all this started years ago in terms of asking questions and trying to learn lessons. Still, you can do that planning, but the Super Bowl gets crazy anyway because you don't know what team you're going to host.
The Monday after the NFC championship teams were decided, representatives from the 49ers and the Giants came out just to walk through the hotel and do some preliminary planning. They take over the hotel, so you have to find security offices and much more. It isn't like the regular season when they're coming in for an overnight. This time you have to prepare for a week.
AB: What are the teams looking for exactly?
PR: They want to focus on football so they just want their offices set up. That means an offensive office, a defensive office, a quarterback office, a special teams office, a coach's office and a media office. It was also a little different with the Giants because we had to prepare to host the Mara family and their friends.
The Giants came in on Monday so we had the rooms all set and had our IT guys preparing the computers and copiers and everything they'd need. We got them off the bus and into the space. The big thing is to make them comfortable and to do it quickly.
AB: Do you have to do anything special to make these guys comfortable? We're talking about some big men.
PR: There's nothing special for each room, but we do have team floors with special security protections. We had to prepare Gatorade and water and have meals and snacks that are appropriate.
AB: Is that a lot of food?
PR: Oh my God yes. Breakfast, snack and lunch, we're handling the team so there is a lot just there. Now they're going to start doing dinner too as the game gets closer. As you can imagine, these guys eat a lot of fruit.
AB: Obviously, Indianapolis is a football town, but typically your staff probably roots for the Colts. Are they Giants fans right now?
PR: Absolutely, if you weren't a fan coming in, you definitely are now. The thing is that this town loves Peyton Manning so a lot of people are rooting for a win for his little brother. I'm thinking this town is 90 percent for the Giants.
It's also been great just because the players have been fun. Now their family and friends have arrived so there is this whole new buzz that is different from before. It is very exciting.
AB: Is there any competition with the hotel that's hosting the Patriots?
PR: I have a threefold bet with the General Manager of the University Place, where the Patriots are staying. The first part is that if the Giants win, his staff will have to do 100 hours of work for a local children's hospital. The second part is that if the Giants win, his staff will have to provide mine with cheesecake and Manhattan clam chowder. If New England wins, we have to give them Boston creme pies and New England clam chowder. The last part of the bet is that if the Patriots win, I have to dye my hair red, white and blue, put on a New England jersey and be their doorman for a day.
I'm not planning on losing.
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