By Robert Grayson
For most pro football fans, the road to Super Bowl XLVIII cuts right through a 10-block stretch of Broadway from Herald Square to Times Square in the heart of New York City. Sure, the Super Bowl itself is being played on Feb. 2, 2014, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., some eight miles from midtown Manhattan.
But for fans who can’t come up with the $9,199 for the sideline seat and hotel room package for the game, the real action will be taking place on Super Bowl Boulevard – and that’s on Broadway in the Big Apple. Usually the NFL puts on an interactive football theme park-type event, called the NFL Experience, in the city hosting the Super Bowl.
The first NFL Experience was held in January 1992 in Minneapolis, before Super Bowl XXVI. This marquee, pre-Super Bowl event has been going strong ever since.
Four northern cities hosted the Super Bowl in the past, but always in a warm, comfortable, domed stadium. By contrast, the game at MetLife Stadium will be played outdoors. The NFL Experience is normally held indoors, as well, at a supersized venue like a mega-convention center. For Super Bowl XLVIII, the NFL said it couldn’t find a place large enough anywhere in the New York/New Jersey metro area to host the NFL Experience indoors. No problem.
The name of the event was simply changed from the NFL Experience to Super Bowl Boulevard, and it’s being held outdoors on the Great White Way between 34th and 44th Street from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. Super Bowl Boulevard is scheduled to be open daily from noon to 11 p.m. no matter the weather.
For hardy souls
The average temperature along Broadway during that time of year is 22 degrees, but how many times does the Super Bowl come to New York City, er, rather, New Jersey? Mercifully, there will be warming stations along the Boulevard, so grab a scarf and get out there. After all, if you love football, you know it’s played in the elements. So why not celebrate it there, in the open air?
While this is the first time the interactive football theme park event has been held outdoors, admission is free and, cold weather aside, organizers anticipate that the crowd attending Super Bowl Boulevard will exceed 1 million people. Broadway will be closed to motor vehicle traffic during this football extravaganza, but cross streets for the most part in the 10-block area will remain open.
New York City is no stranger to open-air events, and this NFL theme park is promising not to disappoint. A stage is being set up between 39th and 40th Streets, and free concerts are scheduled for every night during the four-day event, from 8-10 p.m. Football clinics and competitions are planned for each day, and NFL exhibits will line the 10-block stretch. There will be an actual football field – all 100-plus yards of it – right in the middle of the Boulevard. Current and former NFL players are slated to sign free autographs for fans of all ages.
Trophy on display
The Vince Lombardi Trophy, the crown jewel of NFL football, will be on display and available for photographs. The Roman numerals XLVIII, standing 36 feet high, will greet the crowd entering Super Bowl Boulevard, and offer another great photo-op. The facade of Macy’s in Herald Square will be used to project films featuring great moments from the NFL and bring back memories of the drive-in movie days, back when guys like Y. A. Tittle, Norm Van Brocklin, Jimmy Brown and Jon Arnett played on the gridiron.
But here’s the pièce de resistance – a 180-foot-long, 58-foot high, eight-lane toboggan run that will take over Broadway between 40th and 41st Streets to commemorate the first-ever, open-air, cold-weather Super Bowl. Organizers estimate that between 700 and 1,000 people will go down the toboggan run every hour. So to get a million people down the toboggan run in four days it should take, well, you do the math.
What it all adds up to is one of the biggest football outdoor spectaculars ever held off the field.
Robert Grayson is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at email@example.com.