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Volume 20 No. 42
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Al Kelly: ‘Transportation is the biggest issue’

Now that Super Bowl XLVII has passed, it’s on to the daunting task of running the first Super Bowl to be played outdoors in a cold-weather market. Next year’s game will be a massive challenge in its own right, but it could also determine whether the NFL championship will be played in Northern climes ever again. During Super Bowl Week in New Orleans, Al Kelly, CEO of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, sat down at the Loews hotel with Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and staff writer Terry Lefton to discuss plans surrounding next year’s game.

What’s your biggest challenge in putting on the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather market?

KELLY: Transportation is the biggest issue; let’s not sugarcoat it. We have a big geographic footprint. We have a great mass transit system, and I’d like it to be the first mass transit Super Bowl. We’ll put that message out to make people feel like that’s the best alternative. Frankly, I think it will be. Everyone is going to walk to this year’s Super Bowl [in New Orleans]. Not one person is going to walk to ours next year.

Where do you stand in terms of sponsorship sales and budget goals?

KELLY: We are looking to raise and manage a budget of around $60 million. … For comparison, Phoenix is looking at a budget of

Al Kelly’s been busy preparing for next year’s Super Bowl. Last month he was with Woody Johnson (left) and Roger Goodell.
$23 million [for Super Bowl XLIX in 2015], Dallas [2011 host] was $30 million; New Orleans [this year] was $13 million, and Indy [2012] was around $24 million. We have 28 host sponsors, our top level, and we are good with that. If someone came along and offered to become involved, we could still maybe sell one or two more, but we did better than we thought in our sales. Those host packages include a suite and other tickets in the bowl for the game. Each of those sponsors brought four guests down here to New Orleans on us, and they get access to concerts and other sports events at MetLife Stadium throughout the year. Top sponsors are also the only ones that get to use our logo, and they get to name one of their C-level executives as a vice chairman of the host committee. The next level down are donors, and we have sold dozens of those packages.

So you are close to being sold out?

KELLY: Overall, we have very little inventory left. I am debating with myself whether we should hold a few suites out until the end, because depending on the teams involved, you can get a pretty penny for them. We are down to very little left, as far as our asset base. We actually aren’t selling right now. … We’d like to sell more at different levels. There are some interesting opportunities. We want to see if we can sell a title sponsorship to our volunteer program. We need 15,000 volunteers for this event. That compares to 7,500 in New Orleans and 8,000 in Indy. We’re at 12,000 volunteers already.

So where are you in terms of hitting your budget?

KELLY: I feel good about the revenue side of it, but we’ve got to manage the expense side of it. Weather is a variable, and I’m buying a lot of tickets, and we’re not going to know the ticket price for some time. There are all these unknowns. We have to manage our expenses carefully and we have to manage against assumptions. So are we making good assumptions about how much hotels or tickets are going to cost or how much weather is going to cost us? It’s about managing these variables, which could have the biggest impact on our budget.

Since you’ve done better than expected, are you expecting a budget surplus?

KELLY: I would hope we’d have a surplus and I’d hope it will go to the foundation we have formed. It’s the Snowflake Youth Foundation, which will help organizations that help kids with after-school, evening, weekend and summer programs. That will ultimately be decided by the board.

It’s about economic development …

KELLY: Sure. Our main Super Bowl is really Monday to Saturday of that week, in terms of the economic benefit for the region. I don’t have to worry about Sunday; that’s the NFL’s responsibility, and they do it well. Our responsibility is taking advantage of a time of year that is generally a little slower period of time in the calendar, with upwards of 200,000 people being here and not necessarily worrying about what things cost. They are willing to come to a Super Bowl site and spend money. We want to be sure that’s what they do.