SBJ/Jan. 6-12, 2014/Super Bowl

From Welcome Pavilions to seats, NFL warms to task at MetLife

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
“This has probably been the most rigorous and complex planning that we’ve been involved with in over these past 30 years, given the magnitude of the game, with parts in New York and New Jersey, plus the weather, scheduling and transportation,” Anderson said.

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.

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