SBJ/January 30 - February 5, 2006/Facilities

Super Bowl logistics vet tunes up Ford Field

The first cold-weather Super Bowl in 14 years gives event organizers some unique challenges, not the least of which is finding space for 7,000 game-day workers and media personnel to hang their winter coats.

“We don’t have to do that usually. The climate and weather make this a different year,” said Jerry Anderson, senior principal for HOK Sport.

Jerry Anderson, senior principal for HOK Sport,
has been working Super Bowls for 21 years.
For 21 years the NFL has called on Anderson, who was an independent consultant until HOK acquired his practice in 2002, to handle all the logistics for the world’s biggest one-day sporting event. The novelty of a Super Bowl site that’s actually wintry in the winter only adds to the long list of challenges that Anderson must sometimes creatively surmount.

The problem of temporarily storing thousands of bulky garments was solved by transforming one floor in the seven-story shell of what could eventually be a hotel connected to Ford Field into a giant coat-check room, Anderson said.

The Lions control the “shell building” and allowed the NFL to use the structure under the Super Bowl use agreement between the team and the league, Anderson said. Financial terms were unavailable. (Also, Anderson declined to reveal how much the NFL pays HOK for its services.)

Four floors are serving as office space for HOK and the NFL, a media workroom and a warehouse for retail concessionaire FMI’s Super Bowl merchandise, Anderson said.

“That space has been terrific for us,” he said. “It’s inside and we’ve fitted it out.”

Anderson has been on site since Jan. 2 and has been planning the event for a year and a half. HOK has 30 people working in Detroit.

“Jerry has been in Detroit probably 100 times over the past two years looking at the site,” said Chuck Cusick, the Detroit Lions’ vice president of facility operations.

Setting up the halftime extravaganza featuring the Rolling Stones, 3,000 cast members and 680 feet of stage space presented the biggest obstacle, Cusick said.

“You can’t park everything in the field tunnel,” Anderson said.

The Detroit Tigers came to the rescue, allowing the NFL to use Comerica Park, across the street from Ford Field.

The NFL and Olympia Entertainment, the facility management firm owned by Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, struck a deal for the league to use certain parts of the ballpark, Anderson said. Terms were unavailable.

Comerica Park’s premium dining spaces, operated by Delaware North Sportservice, are also involved in NFL hospitality efforts. The concessionaire plans to feed 1,150 VIPs at the Tiger Club, Tiger Den and Detroit Beer Hall and the upper level of the ballpark’s two-story retail store for three hours before kickoff and two hours after the game, said John Verespie, Sportservice’s on-site GM.

Sportservice will serve meals to halftime entertainers on the facility’s clubhouse and service levels, Verespie said. Levy Restaurants has the food contract at Ford Field.

Noel Lesley, HOK’s building subcontractor working alongside Anderson the past 21 years, built a three-story, 400-foot long steel structure on top of the Ford Field press box to house NFL operations, international broadcasters and halftime control officials.

The 16-booth building, new for this year’s game, can be broken down and used for future Super Bowls, Anderson said.

Security remains at the high level established for big events after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Lesley’s crews built two 8-foot-high fences and installed concrete barricades, forming a secure perimeter starting 300 feet from Ford Field and extending two blocks from the football stadium.

“The techniques we put in place are prescribed by the Secret Service,” he said. “In case something happens, even a week before the game, we need a security system that allows us to shift over to a federally mandated program.”

Safe Management, the Lions’ security firm, has been contracted by the NFL for crowd management service, Anderson said.

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