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St. Paul airport will be busy for Super Bowl -- and a good spot to watch arrivals

Construction in the kitchen area of Holman's Table, a new restaurant opening before the Super Bowl at Holman Field in St. Paul, Nov. 16 2017. Scott Takushi / St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — When the Super Bowl lands in Minneapolis on Feb. 4, the St. Paul's Holman Field is expected to see its busiest day ever.

Joe Harris, manager of the downtown airport, says 1,100 to 1,300 private and corporate aircraft are expected for Super Bowl LII. They will descend on the airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Anoka County-Blaine Airport and Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie.

During the 2017 Super Bowl, Harris went to Houston-area airports similar to Holman Field to observe. "I gained a lot of knowledge from the Houston team," he said. "We're as prepared as we can be at this stage in the game. We want to put out a huge welcome mat."

And just in time for all these visitors — and locals who might want to watch all the ups and down and do a little celebrity-spotting — the terminal will once again have a full-service restaurant and lounge. Holman's Table is expected to open after the first of the new year. It's the airport's first full-service restaurant since 1999, when a series of three 100-year floods swamped the area until a flood wall was completed in 2008.

The restaurant takes its name from the airport, which is formally the St. Paul Downtown Airport Holman Field, and the airport takes its name from Minnesota stunt pilot, barnstormer and aviation record-holder Charles "Speed" Holman. He was one of Northwest Airlines' first pilots and set a world's record of 1,433 consecutive loops in an airplane in five hours over Holman Field in 1926. The field opened that year and the terminal in 1939. It was the first home of Northwest Airlines.

The terminal, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, recently went through an interior renovation to spiff up its terrazzo floors, travertine walls, bathrooms and bronze and brass railings.

The restaurant will be open to the public during Super Bowl weekend, Harris says, but there will be a checkpoint for visitors. "We want to minimize unnecessary traffic." Limousines arriving to transport celebrities will have a separate entrance, he adds.

Game day is going to be the busiest, Harris says, with the morning expected to be peak and 60 percent to 70 percent of the aircraft departing at the conclusion of the game.

The runway at the St. Paul airport is longer and wider than Flying Cloud and Anoka/Blaine. Holman Field is 6,500 feet long, 150 feet wide. The other two are 5,000 feet by 100 feet. "That is a big difference for certain types of airplanes," Harris says, though he adds that most of the airplanes coming in for the Super Bowl could use any of the airports.

"The biggest X factor in it all is the weather," Harris says. But cold and snow also provide an opportunity to show off the "resiliency of our airport workers and Minnesotans in general."

The airport is prepared for other emergencies, as well, he says. "There are a lot of things to think about. We're an airport. We deal with this every day."

From the Minnesota Super Bowl host committee to the airport system and private companies that will manage the flights, Harris says he's been impressed by all of the stakeholders. "We cannot do this alone."

But the airport has a special role, he adds. "We're the first touchpoint and the final touchpoint when they're in the area."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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