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Weather Concerns Dominating Run-up To Super Bowl XLVIII

January 22, 2014

For Super Bowl XLVIII at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium Feb. 2, the man of the hour will not be Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and the word of the day will not be Omaha. No, the man in the spotlight could be The Weather Channel star reporter Jim Cantore, and the term he may be using over and over again is Polar Vortex.

Indeed, when NFL owners voted in 2010 to award the first cold-weather outdoor Super Bowl to the metro New York City/New Jersey region, they knew then that weather patterns were not going to be conducive for fans to sit comfortably outside. Nor would high-rolling corporate sponsors be enthusiastic about giving up the trappings that previous warm-weather host cities had offered. 

Even global warming may be heating the planet, but not enough to turn MetLife Stadium in New Jersey into Sun Life Stadium in Miami.

Now, the game is less than two weeks away, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, recognizing the realities of the league's choice, has pledged to give up the warmth and comfort of his luxury suite to sit in the outdoor seating, alongside fans.

"I'm sitting in the stands," Goodell said at a press conference. "We're playing in New York, New Jersey. Yes, I am going to be in the stands. I'm sitting outside. This is part of the experience. I will be sitting outside." 

Goodell will be following the lead of previous commissioners who have dared the elements to sit outside with fans during big games. Former NFL commissioner Pete Rozell sat outside for Super Bowl VI, played in New Orleans at Tulane Stadium, where the temperature was 39 degrees at kickoff -- the coldest Super Bowl to date. Also, who can forget former MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn bravely sitting in the box seats without an overcoat in a 40-degree chill for the first weekend night game in World Series history in 1976? 

How did we get here, anyhow?

More than 10 years ago, then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue thought that in the aftermath of 9/11, and the impact felt in the New York/New Jersey metro area, a Super Bowl might be what the region needed to help with the rebound. At that time, the target event was the 2008 Super Bowl. But concerns about the quality of the then-25-year-old Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., could not be overcome, and NFL owners kept to their pattern of awarding their biggest event to warm-weather cities and/or dome stadiums.

Years later, with a new stadium to replace the demolished Giants Stadium nearly complete, the owners of the Giants and Jets franchises collaborated with New York and New Jersey public officials and put a full-court press on the other owners.

In 2009, the NFL owners awarded Super Bowl XLVIII to the Giants, Jets and MetLife Stadium. 

This year, the big game and all the associated activities that go with it will cost approximately $70 million, according to NFL officials, and backed up by the tax filings of the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl host committee organization. 

At this point, some things people know for certain about Super Bowl XLVIII are that it will feature the Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, it will be cold and it will be expensive. Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-30s during the day, dipping into the 20s in the evening. As of Jan. 22, the least expensive ticket on StubHub was approximately $2,400. 

NFL officials are trying to commercialize what is, admittedly, a challenging climate and location. On the one hand, the New York/New Jersey metro area is the media and financial capital of the United States, and those companies will spend whatever it takes to make a good impression for their customers and partners. In midtown Manhattan for four days, a 13-block stretch of Broadway will be closed to traffic, and dubbed Super Bowl Boulevard, complete with a toboggan run during the run-up to the game. 

According to reports, NFL merchandise head Leo Kane said the league was tracking toward record merchandise sales of more than $200 million. On the other hand, gone are past hits such as the interactive NFL experience, which is a casualty of the lack of a consolidated footprint for league events, as was available in fan-friendly cities such as New Orleans and Indianapolis. 

Goodell and his NFL owners will surely put a good face on for the media and at public events. But what you aren't likely to hear during the days before the game is any talk of putting other outdoor stadiums into the future selection options. Cold-weather cities with NFL teams and outdoor stadiums such as Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; or Philadelphia should not get any ideas about hosting future Super Bowls. This was a one-in-a-million opportunity for the NFL, and no, Lloyd Christmas -- from the movie "Dumb and Dumber" -- they are not telling you, "There's still a chance!"