Long Beach Airport.

With the 2022 Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium a quick jaunt up the 405 Freeway, Long Beach Airport officials are gearing up for an increased number of travelers and a surge in air traffic in the days leading up to and after the event.

The Los Angeles Rams will take on the Cincinnati Bengals at the Rams’ home stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, Feb. 13. The new, $5.5 billion stadium (the most expensive ever built) was selected to host the Super Bowl in 2017, while the Rams’ advancement to the championship game was decided last weekend.

At 22.4 miles away, Long Beach is the second closest to the stadium of the five commercial airports in the Los Angeles region. Los Angeles International Airport is the closest to SoFi at 3.6 miles, while Burbank, John Wayne and Ontario range from 30 to 53 miles away from the stadium.

To accommodate increased travel, airport staff are working with the National Football League and the Federal Aviation Administration as well as its tenants to plan accordingly and maintain compliance with the small municipal facility’s noise ordinance. Additional airfield parking spaces for visiting charter planes have been identified, according to staff.

“We are game ready as we welcome football fans visiting the region for Super Bowl LVI,” airport Director Cynthia Guidry said in an email. “This world-class event … promises to bring an influx of visitor spending and excitement to our entire region.”

The increased travel will be welcome at the airfield after two years of low passenger volumes due to the pandemic. The number of travelers passing through the airport has rebounded significantly but remains well below pre-pandemic levels. The facility also is in the midst of the usual post-holiday slowdown, according to airport spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall.

While the number of commercial flights is capped under the airport’s strict noise ordinance, charter flights are not. However, each charter flight is subject to the same hours of operation as commercial flights (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and require prior written permission to land at the facility to ensure they abide by the ordinance, Kuykendall said.

Aboard commercial flights, airport staff anticipate higher passenger loads beginning Thursday, Feb. 10, with the busiest travel day expected to be the day after the game, Kuykendall said.

To capitalize on increased travel, Paradies Lagardere—the primary concessions provider at Long Beach Airport—will open a pop-up retail store for football fans in the outdoor garden area of the passenger concourse. Items at the pop up will include licensed Rams and Bengals merchandise, including shirts, hats, mugs, tumblers, shot glasses and drink koozies, among others, Paradies confirmed.

“We’re excited to partner with Long Beach Airport to celebrate the Super Bowl with our travelers,” Tish Stockton, retail general manager for Paradies at LGB said in an email, adding that the shop will have fresh merch showcasing the winning team Monday morning after the game.

Economists project the event will generate between $234 and $477 million in economic benefits, including between $12 million and $22 million in tax revenue for the region.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.