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SBJ/Jan. 6-12, 2014/Super BowlPrint All
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.The league is prepared, though, with various contingencies in the event of severe weather — with everything on the table from moving the game forward a day to delaying it a week.
Even if the weather on Feb. 2 is frightful for the first cold-weather outdoor Super Bowl, the NFL is undeterred about the decision to host the game at MetLife Stadium.
“Watching NFL football in the snow is really romantic,” said Frank Supovitz, senior vice president of events for the NFL, sharing a sentiment echoed by many who feel the aesthetics of a snowy Super Bowl would make for a vibrant TV offering. “I think it will be better if it snowed a little bit during the game. I think it will be much more memorable.”
Any change to the 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff time, however, could potentially doom not just another New York-area Super Bowl but also other outdoor cold-weather sites like Denver, which has been eyeing a bid.
Atlanta, for example, has never recovered from the ice storms that bedeviled the last Super Bowl there, in 2000. The area lost soundly on two future Super Bowl bids even though the actual contest at the Georgia Dome that year proceeded on schedule. The snow mess in Dallas for the 2011 Super Bowl is still clearly top of mind, as well. While that game also proceeded as scheduled, Dallas did not make the final cut of bidders for the Super Bowl in 2018.
New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Al Kelly and others close to the group have said publicly that their hope is to host the game once a decade. It’s hard to see that happening if the game is rescheduled.
If next month’s game is not rescheduled but inclement weather does arrive, there are few regions better suited to handle snow and ice.
“From our experience managing transportation at that stadium, dealing with large snowfalls out there, the state coupled with the sports authority always has done a great job clearing the snow,” said Roy Fugazy, whose eponymous firm handles car services for major sporting events, as it will for this year’s Super Bowl host committee.
Fugazy is planning to spread the 275 vehicles he will use Super Bowl Sunday around the region in the week before, to ensure they are not snowbound if a major storm hits in the hours or days before the game.
Within a 30-mile radius of MetLife Stadium, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority will stockpile 60,000 tons of salt, and statewide the figures will hit 220,000. In that 30-mile radius, there are 821 trucks to plow snow, with 2,400 available statewide.
New Jersey will also be the host for this year’s Super Bowl Media Day, in Newark at the Prudential Center on the Tuesday before the game. The two team hotels will be in the Garden State, as well.
Willitsnow.com monitors the Feb. 2 forecast, and most experts say “No” to snow.
“If you look at the history of Giants Stadium as well as every year of MetLife Stadium, we have played every game that is scheduled on the day it is scheduled,” said Brad Mayne, the stadium’s CEO, speaking at a weather media briefing last month. Giants Stadium opened in 1976 and was replaced by MetLife Stadium in 2010.
Within New York City, where the NFL is based and the 13-block-long Super Bowl Boulevard will set up shop on Broadway from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, the city will have 6,000 sanitation workers ready to clear snow. The city boasts 440 salt spreaders, 2,000 portable garbage trucks, 36 snow melters and a 263,500-ton stockpile of salt.
Of course, all the planning could be for naught if a massive blizzard arrives, or it could be fully superfluous if the weather is unseasonably warm. That’s what occurred two years ago in Indianapolis, when coats were barely necessary despite it being February in Indiana. Indianapolis, which has a roof for its stadium, is now one of the three finalists bidding for the 2018 Super Bowl. The others are New Orleans and Minneapolis, where the Vikings are building a new stadium with a roof.
As for this year, the weather watching and forecasting — including AccuWeather’s WillItSnow.com, a site dedicated exclusively to the Super Bowl weather outlook — will continue.
The NFL has a mantra for Super Bowl XLVIII: “Embrace the winter.” But to make sure the New Jersey winter doesn’t embrace MetLife Stadium’s 80,000 guests too firmly, the league has been working for months to create features such as heated entrance pavilions and cold-weather kits for every seat to help keep fans as warm as possible.
The NFL in May 2010 awarded New York/New Jersey the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather market, and soon after that league officials and their consultants from Populous began meeting with the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee to plan the game. The meetings have grown more frequent as the Feb. 2 game nears, culminating in multiple conferences every day over the past several weeks, said Jerry Anderson, a senior principal with Populous who is planning his 29th Super Bowl.
MetLife Stadium will be ready for another snowy day, like this one Dec. 15.
Photo by:AP IMAGES
What they’re looking at is America’s biggest sporting event coming to a region that saw eight to 10 inches of snow in the first half of December and is bound to see more leading up to February, historically the area’s snowiest month.
The NFL’s warmth offensive will stretch from beyond the stadium entrance to the seats. Here’s a look at what visitors will encounter:
■ PAVILIONS: In conjunction with the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, the league is building seven giant heated tents outside the stadium called Welcome Pavilions, set up at the edge of the 300-foot secured perimeter that has been a key piece of Super Bowl logistics since 9/11.
The 20,000-square-foot pavilions, new to the Super Bowl experience, serve as the front door for all ticket holders and media covering the game, Anderson said.
“You’re in a warm environment … immediately in the experience of the Super Bowl,” Anderson said.
Inside the tents, guests will have their tickets and credentials scanned and go through security screening. The tents will be themed with Super Bowl decorations and have live music, video displays and game merchandise for sale.
The NFL will have its Fans First staff on hand to answer questions and provide event information, Anderson said.
At the same time they get their tickets and credentials scanned, all guests will receive a wristband with a number corresponding to the tent they came through to help them find their way back to their car, bus or light rail line after the game.
Each tent is capable of handling 10,000 to 12,000 people over the course of the day, Anderson said. The pavilions open at 2 p.m., 4 1/2 hours before kickoff.
Super Bowl planners think, depending on the weather conditions, that fans will want to move relatively quickly to the Gameday Fan Plaza, which opens at 2:30. Fans can hang out at the pavilions — “We think it will flow very well on its own,” Anderson said — but the NFL has the ability to move the crowd along if necessary to keep the lines moving.
■ GAMEDAY FAN PLAZA: The open-air space is a largely interactive piece of Super Bowl Sunday tied to football skills games, food, drink and retail stands, plus photo opportunities with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and other attractions. The plaza, estimated at a total of 925,000 square feet, stretches around two-thirds of the stadium footprint, Anderson said.
To keep patrons warm during those outdoor activities before heading inside the stadium, the NFL plans to set up 350 temporary heating structures around the fan plaza.
The Gameday Fan Plaza was first introduced at the 2009 Super Bowl at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida, and it has become increasingly popular over the past five years, said Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s senior vice president of events, who is working his ninth league championship game.
■ SEAT CUSHIONS: After entering the stadium and arriving at their seats, Super Bowl ticket holders will find individual seat cushions stuffed with cold weather amenities inside an expanded pocket. The survival kit contains six hand warmers, a hand muffler similar to the ones worn by NFL quarterbacks, texting gloves, ear muffs, a ski mask, lip balm, facial tissues and “some other surprises to keep you warm,” Supovitz said.
For years, the seat cushions have been a Super Bowl collectible for fans to take home from the game but have mostly held materials used for halftime show card stunts, he said.
■ STAFF AND PRESS: Forming a plan to keep Super Bowl staff warm during the long day is a greater concern this year in the middle of an East Coast winter. To resolve the issue, some will gather in tents also used for postgame interviews and golf cart storage, Anderson said.
“Essentially, we have 10,000 staff and they all need a place to take a break and keep warm,” he said.
Auxiliary press seating in the stadium bowl will feature infrared heating systems overhead and baseboard heaters, a design unique to this year’s game, Anderson said. Those 300 desktops and 500 additional seats will be constructed outdoors in the north end zone on the 100 level.
The potential for harsh winter weather has accelerated the construction schedule for this year’s Super Bowl. “We put a bigger emphasis on early construction so that if [bad] weather does come in, we’ll be working inside of those facilities and we won’t have to worry about snow and wind becoming a barrier to getting the job done,” Anderson said.
Super Bowl Boulevard will be bookended by two large broadcast sets, with Fox Sports setting up in a Times Square location best known for its New Year’s Eve celebration and ESPN in Herald Square, best known for serving as the base for the city’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
From opposite ends of Super Bowl Boulevard, both networks will use that stretch of Broadway as the backdrop to their week of Super Bowl programming.
ESPN’s set will be similar to the one for Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Photo by:CHRIS BERGIN / ESPN IMAGES
NFL Network also will have its main set on Super Bowl Boulevard, halfway between the sets of ESPN and Fox Sports (between 41st and 42nd streets). NFL Network will produce most of its “NFL Total Access” and “Super Bowl Live” shows from this enclosed set. The network also has a set at the media center on radio row.
CBS Sports and NBC Sports Group will use their Manhattan-based studios for much of their Super Bowl week programming. NBC will move its “Pro Football Talk” show from Connecticut to 30 Rock for the week, and CBS Sports Network’s “Boomer and Carton” simulcast from WFAN will come from the M&M’s World store on Broadway.
Fox Sports will install a 40-by-40-foot structure in Times Square with a rooftop option.
Photo by:FOX SPORTS
“Given that we have all the other programming for Fox Sports 1, we needed a set that projected a huge personality as the host broadcaster, but also was functional enough to do a lot of different things,” said Gary Hartley, executive vice president of graphics for Fox Sports.
That includes a two-story, 40-foot-by-40-foot structure with a full TV studio and green room. Weather permitting, Fox Sports plans to shoot some segments from its rooftop, which will be 44 feet above the street.
Outside the structure, Fox Sports will have three LED screens and a 16-foot-tall Cleatus robot.
“In New York, if you don’t have a lot of real estate, you have to go up. That’s why we wound up with the enormous stage that we’re talking about today,” said Mike Davies, vice president of field operations for Fox Sports.
ESPN’s set will look much like it did in Indianapolis — another city challenged by cold weather. The set will be enclosed in glass showing Super Bowl Boulevard behind the commentators.
ESPN also plans to make use of studio space in Times Square that houses ABC’s “Good Morning America” and its Keith Olbermann show.
Fox Sports will not use Fox News’ Manhattan studio, but some Fox News shows could use the Fox Sports set, possibly including Bill O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Both ESPN and Fox Sports will have game-day sets at MetLife Stadium. Fox Sports’ set will be climate controlled, while ESPN’s anchors will be in the elements.
Executives from both ESPN and Fox Sports said dealing with the prospects of bad weather did not present as much of a challenge as dealing with New York City.
“It’s not about the weather; it’s more about the space and the cost of the space in the city,” ESPN’s Markman said. “In New York, there are a lot of spaces that have iconic landmarks. But it costs a lot of money.”
For ESPN, Super Bowl week coverage will look similar to previous years. The biggest change will be the emphasis on weather. It plans to have “Good Morning America” weather forecaster Ginger Zee on air throughout the week.
“I can’t imagine that every ‘NFL Live,’ every ‘NFL Insider,’ every ‘SportsCenter’ isn’t going to have a segment in it with some update on what Sunday’s weather looks like,” Markman said. “It’s such a big factor in the game.”
Another change will come from ESPN’s show “NFL Insiders,” which will be shot from the Super Bowl location and will focus on stories not related to the Super Bowl.
“It’s not going to be a heavy Super Bowl show,” Markman said. “We want to use that hour to talk about the other 30 teams as much as possible. That’s an opportunity to really have something different that other shows aren’t doing on Super Bowl week.”
The New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee is dubbing next month’s game the Mass Transit Super Bowl.
Perhaps others, maybe those with a pro-vehicular angle, will dub it the Anti-Car Super Bowl.
Either way, Feb. 2 is shaping up as a unique experiment for the NFL, with as many as 80 percent of those who will be in attendance expected to come via shared transportation — meaning trains, buses or shuttles.
“It’s the first-ever mass-transit Super Bowl,” said Carmen Bianco, president of MTA New York City Transit, which moves 8 million people a day, speaking at a briefing last month at the Secaucus Junction train station. That junction is where tens of thousands of fans will transfer to a MetLife Stadium connection.
“Parking is not the way we are recommending,” he said.
The New York region is unique in the United States in the percentage of commuters who rely on mass transit rather than personal vehicles; less than a quarter of New York City residents even owns cars. So when the area won the game, it was no secret that more people would be arriving at this year’s Super Bowl via mass transit than has been the case in the past.
But the limits on parking, and the pricing, were not so expected — even with those steps coming as security considerations. Taxis and car services cannot drop customers off at the stadium; instead, they’ll have to wait. That means those companies will have to secure a parking pass — forget hailing a yellow cab in Manhattan to take you to the game — and those passes average $150.
Booking a car through most providers that day will run as much if not more than the cost of the game ticket. Fugazy Sports and Entertainment, a car-service provider for sporting events and the official provider for the host committee, quoted a price of $1,320 for a typical car to the game (12-hour minimum, $110 an hour).
By contrast, round-trip train fare from New York Penn Station to MetLife Stadium is less than $15. The host committee also is arranging express bus service to pick up fans at spots around the region for $51 round trip.
There are between 13,000 and 15,000 parking spaces available for the game, Supovitz said. A typical New York Jets or Giants game at the stadium has around 28,000, with about 10,000 fans arriving via mass transit. Security requirements and staging areas required the dramatic reduction.
Mass transit will take essentially three forms: New Jersey Transit commuter trains that let fans out in front of the stadium; buses; and hired shuttles. Despite New York being a walking city, forget the idea of getting dropped off outside the grounds and walking in; that’s prohibited.
As for the week itself, the local mass transit providers plan on extra service, including weekday service on Sunday the day of the game. Given the existing transit infrastructure, however, there is not much more that needs to be added to get people around the region.
Once the two teams are decided, the host committee plans to get the transit message out in the two teams’ respective markets through newspaper interviews and direct marketing.