MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., host of Super Bowl XLVIII. (Photo by Dustin Levine)
REPORTING FROM MIAMI — Next year’s Super Bowl will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and will take over both the Garden State and New York. This year, the Stadium Managers Association Summit in Miami, Feb. 3-7, brought two speakers from the National Football League, who addressed what was successful in New Orleans and how that could be translated in the winter wonderland of February in New Jersey.
The NFL’s Sr. VP of Events, Frank Supovitz, said the league is prepared for cold, but doesn’t want it to get that cold.
“We’re hoping it’s minus zero Celsius, not minus zero Fahrenheit,” he said via video chat to the 360 attendees at the SMA Seminar. “It’s really not reinventing the wheel from an infrastructure standpoint. The New York and New Jersey area is very used to clearing snow. It’s something that they do all the time.”
He added that past Super Bowls have taken place in Detroit and Minnesota, so cold-weather contingencies are built into the plans.
“We are determined not to shy away from the winter, we’ve decided to embrace it,” said Supovitz. “If a blackout is a had-to-be-there moment that we didn’t plan for, we’re planning for a had-to-be-there moment with the winter in MetLife Stadium.”
In order to be ready for winter, the NFL has plans underway for Super Bowl XLVIII. For the first time, the 48th Super Bowl will host media day outside of the stadium. In 2014, Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will serve as the site of the event.
“It’s so media day can happen in comfort for the players and the media, and also be a fan event which we’ve had for the last couple of years,” said Supovitz. “It also gives us an extra day of preparation in the stadium.”
There were a few aspects introduced or refined in New Orleans that will carry over to New Jersey/New York, also.
“We shifted where we hold the trophy presentation from the 50-yard line, which is a tough area to reclaim,” said Jeffrey Miller, VP and chief Security officer for the NFL. “Instead, we took the area from the 30-yard line to the end zone.”
National Collegiate Athletics Association's Jeff Jarnecke, Major League Soccer's Nelson Rodriguez, National Football League's Jeffrey Miller, Major League Baseball's Dan Mullin, and Bowl Championship Series' Michael Kelly, gave updates about the leagues during SMA. (VT Photo)
He said that in Super Bowls to come, it will be easier to secure an end of the field instead of battling the crowd at the 50-yard line, which seems to be where the team and press congregate.
Also, the NFL is embracing technology in new ways.
“Last year, we decided we’re going to make a substantial change in how we do business. One of the things is to use the technology to help us,” added Miller.
For 2013, the NFL embedded RFID chips into their credentials. In order to enter or leave the field, employees had to scan in and out.
“Up at NFL control I had a number of monitors in front of me,” said Miller. “One gave me a real-time, to-the-second readout of who was on the field.”
The NFL implemented this system in order to keep the field clean during the game and also try to deter press and staff from rushing the field at the end of the game. Previously, when the clock struck zero, people would rush the field. For Super Bowl XLVII, the NFL added two minutes to the clock and, during that time, 25 still cameras were allowed on the field as the teams shook hands.
“It was a championship moment for the winners that was unencumbered by 1,000 cameras,” said Miller.
Another way the NFL has embraced technology is through the use of texting. This year, a text number was printed right on the face of the ticket, which proved useful for an event so popular in the secondary market.
“What it enables us to do is send short message texts to the people who are actually holding the ticket,” said Supovitz. “We can greet them on game day, provide them with traffic and parking information, give them waiting times at the gates, and we can give them the best route to the stadium at any given moment.”
This year, 7,500 fans registered their tickets — triple the amount of last year.
By practicing ‘dynamic crowd control,’ keeping track of the flow of attendees in real time and directing them up to a mile out, kept the wait at security checkpoints down to 10 minutes or less. There was one exception.
“One single gate, for a 15 minute period during the day, had more than a 10 minute wait,” clarified Supovitz.
Frank Supovitz, VP of Events at NFL, speaks to the SMA crowd via video chat. (VT Photo)
Another idea that was inspired by Indianapolis and implemented in New Orleans that will be brought to Super Bowl XLVIII is Super Bowl Boulevard. In Indianapolis, it was called Super Bowl Village. Unlike the festivals that communities have done for many years during Super Bowl, these are branded for the event.
The NFL participates with the host community to design the event. In New Orleans, the host committee produced an event designed by the NFL at Woldenberg Park. It gave broadcasters a place to film that was always full of fans. There were four stages of music, food options, and a place for the giant Roman Numerals, which came floating down the Mississippi River on a barge.
“It really became the place that the Super Bowl lives, for most fans,” said Supovitz. “Where we had 90,000 people at NFL Experience over the course of five days, we had 150,000 people at Super Bowl Boulevard over the course of four days.”
“This is something that’s going to continue to live. It figures very prominently in our plans for New York/New Jersey next year,” he added.
Super Bowl Boulevard in New York will close Broadway for a half-mile football festival. The length of Broadway from 34th to 44th will be closed for a pedestrian event including stages of entertainment.
“We want to create that excitement and get people out on the streets,” Supovitz said. “It will help us get people out of their hotel rooms and enjoy an incredible experience in the heart of Manhattan.”
And of course, it seems like you can’t mention Super Bowl XLVII without talk of electrical issues.
Supovitz said that a power outage won’t keep Super Bowl from coming to New Orleans. The next time the city can bid for the big game is in 2018, which happens to be the 300th birthday of New Orleans. The investigation into the power outage is ongoing. The NFL didn’t investigate further during the actual game because the focus was on restarting.
“Your job when something like that happens is to get things going again,” said Supovitz. “It’s not to launch an investigation at that moment.”
“I think from 7 o’clock that morning to 13:22 remaining in the third quarter, it was the fastest day ever, and from that point to the end of the game, it was the slowest-moving day ever ,” he added.
Interviewed for this story: Jeffery Miller and Frank Supovitz, (212) 450-2787