SBJ/January 14-20, 2013/Facilities

It’s a Super Bowl party in the parking garage

The Super Bowl’s return to New Orleans for the first time since 2002 has brought major changes in event programming, including the conversion of a parking garage near the Mercedes-Benz Superdome into a hospitality spot for the NFL Tailgate Party, the pregame bash thrown for the league’s biggest stakeholders.

The NFL Tailgate Party will start in a parking garage.
Image by: NFL
Three levels, about one-third of Champions Garage, will be converted to corporate hospitality space and themed as a French Quarter balcony. To achieve the look, Party Planners West, the Los Angeles event planner producing the tailgate party, is building temporary walls in the garage and decorating those spaces, said Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s senior vice president of events. New Orleans-style food and drink will be served in the garage, and space will be set aside for face painting, brass bands, jazz pianos and tarot card readers.

But that’s just the start. For the first time in the 30-year history of the NFL Tailgate Party, it will extend to additional locations, creating a progressive tailgate, Supovitz said.

From the garage, the party moves to an 80,000-square-foot tent set up in Lot 3, a surface parking lot between Champions Garage and New Orleans Arena, said Doug Thornton, senior vice president of stadiums and arenas for Superdome management firm SMG. The tent, the largest free-span structure Thornton has seen in working seven Super Bowls, is connected to a covered walkway leading to New Orleans Arena, the tailgate party’s final destination, featuring live bands and more food and drink.

Virtually every square inch of the arena, including both concourses, courtside restaurant and club lounges, will be used to entertain guests, Thornton said. When they leave for the game, those premium patrons will walk over existing skybridges to the dome.

The selection of the party sites “was a decision we made to be one of convenience and to clear security protocols,” Supovitz said. “In 2002, it was too late to move the tailgate party.”

Eleven years ago, the NFL first established high-security perimeters for the Super Bowl as a result of the 9/11 attacks the year before. Sponsors, NFL team owners, broadcasters, celebrities and other VIPs had to clear metal detectors and pat-downs before attending the NFL Tailgate Party at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, then make a mile-and-a-half trip to the Superdome and go through more security before entering the stadium.

Because all of this year’s activities take place within the security perimeter surrounding the dome, tailgate party attendees will stay inside the perimeter after being screened and having their tickets scanned at Champions Garage.

In addition to the tailgate party, Super Bowl planners are making creative use of Club 44, a premium club inside an old Macy’s department store building. The space will be used for NFL On Location, the league’s deluxe travel package. The 6,000-square-foot club, which sits in back of the Champions Square outdoor entertainment zone adjoining the dome, will be reserved for On Location ticket holders paying $2,800 to $10,800 to attend the game.

A former food court inside the building has been redeveloped for the Super Bowl, providing an additional 18,000 square feet for On Location functions, Thornton said. The Louisiana Sports and Exposition District, the Superdome’s owner, spent $1 million to expand the indoor footprint.

Because the club and the other redeveloped spaces inside the building were not part of the city’s original bid for the 2013 Super Bowl, the district keeps all net revenue from On Location hospitality. Otherwise, the NFL controls revenue for game-day property, including Champions Square, the 121,000-square-foot outdoor festival space.

For the Super Bowl, Champions Square will be rebranded as Gameday Fan Plaza and will be open to all ticket holders, said Jerry Anderson, a senior principal with Populous, hired by the NFL to plan the event. The fan plaza component will extend to the top decks of two parking garages, separate from Champions Garage, filled with sponsor activations, photo opportunities with a large replica of the Super Bowl trophy, and the broadcast set for CBS.

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