Even for New York, this is big.
How big? Try a 58-foot toboggan run through Times Square; a 146,000-ton cruise ship docked on the Hudson River; a $50,000 price tag for some tables at a makeshift restaurant in the heart of the city.
Super Bowl week never makes for a small party, but considering the unique logistical challenges — and judging by the transformation of midtown Manhattan in anticipation of Super Bowl XLVIII — the plan put together by New York and the NFL clearly doesn’t lack ambition.
“It’s been very fun, very challenging — I’d say uniquely fun,” said Mary Pat Augenthaler, the NFL’s vice president for event production and a tri-state native and resident. “This is like a home game for us. We’re usually flying into another city and learning about that city over the course of 18 months or two years. But we all live here and work here. It elevates it for us.”
The league and the city will be under close watch; this week could go a long way in determining whether New York or another cold-weather city will join the Super Bowl rotation. That may ultimately hinge on the conditions for the game itself, but also on the success of the big party.
The NFL has worked in concert with more than 35 city, state and federal agencies to plan everything from transportation and security to bad-weather contingencies, according to Cristin Burtis, the executive director of citywide event coordination and management for the Mayor’s Office.
She noted that New York City often plays host to major events, referencing its annual New Year’s Eve celebration, Thanksgiving Day Parade and Christmas festivities, as well as rare happenings such as papal visits. Yet she admitted the Super Bowl presents its own challenges.
“We’re no stranger to large events, and this one has been quite the undertaking for all the city agencies,” Burtis said. “It’s the sheer volume of events that are taking place in a weeklong period that makes it distinctly different than other events.”
That’s true for the NFL, too. The league scrapped the NFL Experience, a popular Super Bowl week staple, and created Super Bowl Boulevard, a 13-block stretch of Broadway between 34th and 47th streets that will be closed to traffic for four days and serve as an epicenter of activity for fans.
Events typically featured at the NFL Experience (Indianapolis, for example, built a zip line for Super Bowl XLVI) would have been best housed at the 1.8-million-square-foot Jacob Javits Center, but the building is booked for trade shows, Burtis said. So the NFL and the Mayor’s Office opted to shut down Broadway and create something new.
Stretches of the boulevard north of 42nd Street have been closed to vehicles since 2009, so the closures only had to be extended down to 34th.
The NFL has insisted that its Super Bowl Boulevard is not the NFL Experience, a centerpiece of 21 previous Super Bowl weeks.
“We started this from scratch,” Augenthaler said.
In order to aid the more than 150 businesses along that stretch of Broadway, the league will sell food at only one location: the Super Bowl-themed steakhouse Forty Ate, opening in a pop-up structure at the Renaissance New York in Times Square. For the interested (and the very wealthy), prime tables at Forty Ate will go for as much as $50,000.
New York City will host extravagant parties — both public and private — all week and weekend. Augenthaler tabbed the NFL’s policy on activities as “from 2 to 92,” meaning events cater to fans of all ages. For instance, the Super Bowl virtual theater will broadcast nightly on the façade of Macy’s in Herald Square. The superstore will open a 36,000-square-foot NFL Shop on its fourth floor. Fans will be able to take photos with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, get autographs from stars and listen to outdoor concerts.
Tim Spelman, 32, a Giants fan from Larchmont who now lives and works in Manhattan, said he and his girlfriend plan to check out Broadway when Super Bowl Boulevard opens Wednesday night. But Spelman, who has been to Super Bowls in Tampa, Miami and Indianapolis, said his interest is tepid.
“It’s one of those ‘been there, done that’ things,” he said. “For New York City, it’s nothing I’m overly excited about. It’s New York. They have parties all the time.”
Some of the grandest are scheduled for the Bud Light Hotel New York, another temporary venue. From Thursday night through the morning after the Super Bowl, Bud Light will take over the brand new, 4,028-passenger Norwegian Getaway, a luxury cruise ship, and adjacent Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum along the West Side Highway. The Foo Fighters, Run-DMC, Busta Rhymes and the Roots are among the acts scheduled to perform in the makeshift-but-heated Bud Light Hotel Amphitheatre next to the Intrepid and near the Getaway.
After Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day in Newark, N.J., all Super Bowl-related events will be in Manhattan through Saturday night. The focus won’t shift to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., until Sunday, but even that has complicated things for the NFL, which has never hosted a Super Bowl week spanning two states.
“We’ve had some of the biggest meetings we’ve ever had,” said Augenthaler, who is working on her 18th Super Bowl. “You name it, and everyone that sits in those meetings is an expert in their field. It’s really been a collaboration for us.”
Fans expect it will be different for them, too. Spelman said Indianapolis and Tampa centered nearly all Super Bowl-related events in a small radius near the stadiums. Those who have been to Super Bowls in New Orleans have praised the city for a similarly cozy feel.
“And a lot of that stuff is outside,” Spelman said. “I think the weather could certainly come into play here.”
Augenthaler believes New Yorkers are accustomed to dealing with cold — and worse — during their winters. But will they be the primary visitors?
Former Scarsdale resident Dave Weinreb, who attended Super Bowls involving the Giants in Tampa and Indianapolis, isn’t so sure.
“Personally, I wouldn’t go near Times Square,” said Weinreb, 31, who now lives in Manhattan. “My experience with attending the game is that unless your team is in it, it wouldn’t be a fun game to attend.
“If the Giants were involved, I would probably stop by, because it would be packed with Giant fans, and it would be an experience with like-minded people.”
Questions concerning the weather and the area’s viability as a Super Bowl host have emboldened organizers determined to make it a success. Consider that the Super Bowl host committee’s logo features a snowflake at its center, and that the NFL is erecting a massive toboggan run in the heart of Times Square.
“I think the answer is, we can’t control the weather. So the things we have control over, I’m confident in,” Burtis said. “I think if there is snow, that we’ll move it and make sure it’s safe for everyone so they can enjoy their experience.”