Super Bowl week is at hand, and as always, various rooting interests are in play as the country’s biggest sporting event nears. But with the game set to be played for the first time on the supersize stage of the New York area in what could be the grandest and coldest Super Bowl ever, a significant number of onlookers are rooting for the host city.
Or at least they should be. Any hopes for other cities with frosty winter weather and outdoor football stadiums — such as Washington — to host future Super Bowls might rest on how things go in New York during the upcoming week.
“Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore are all asking, ‘Is this something we can do?’ ” Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy said recently. “You’d be amazed how many fans and how many [Packers] shareholders here have asked the same thing.”
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has expressed interest in bringing a Super Bowl to the D.C. area. On the day the owners voted in May 2010 at a meeting in Irving, Tex., to award this Super Bowl to the New York area, Snyder said: “I think Washington should get one, no matter what. It is the nation’s capital.”
Redskins officials declined to comment on the issue in recent days, saying only that the team supported the combined Super Bowl bid by New York and New Jersey. But others in the league said virtually everyone in the NFL will be watching New York’s Super Bowl week closely to see whether a future outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather city is viable.
“I didn’t go in there with the idea this would necessarily open the door to other cities,” New York Giants co-owner John Mara said. “We were in the process of building a new stadium. Certainly the attraction to the other owners of the game being played in the media capital of the world was powerful. [But] I do think if we do a good job and all goes well, it will open the door to other cities, yes.”
The next three Super Bowls already have been awarded: to Arizona next year, San Francisco in 2016 and Houston in 2017. The 2018 game will be selected by the owners in May from among Indianapolis, Minneapolis and New Orleans. Whether cold-weather cities with outdoor stadiums will begin bidding to host games beyond that remains to be seen.
The NFL waived a weather requirement — that a host city with an outdoor stadium have an average temperature of at least 50 degrees at this time of the year — to allow the bid by New York and New Jersey to proceed. At the time of the vote, there were mixed feelings among owners as to whether the move was being made for reasons unique to having the game in New York or to open the possibility of having future Super Bowls in cities that usually wouldn’t qualify for consideration.
As the Feb. 2 matchup between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., draws close, those mixed feelings persist.
“I would say when the vote was taken, I regarded it as a New York-only vote,” Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a telephone interview. “I think this first came up shortly after 9/11, and there was sentiment for doing something for New York. I think Washington was mentioned in some of those conversations as well. But it took a while for New York to put together a bid and a package that everyone was comfortable with.
“I think it will remain a rare occasion when the game is played in a northern city, particularly without a dome,” Rooney said. “But I do think people will be watching, and it could affect future decisions.”
But while Murphy, a former Redskins safety, acknowledged the hopes of other cold-weather cities with outdoor stadiums to secure future Super Bowls, he said those hopes might not be realistic.
“I think it was really specific to New York,” Murphy said. “I think it was coming out of 9/11 and wanting to really do something special for New York. It was a brand-new stadium with two teams [the Giants and New York Jets] in it. I anticipate it will probably not set a precedent.”
One top NFL official, Eric Grubman, said he believes there is “no prevailing view” within the league on that topic.
“Different people can have different views at the staff level, the [league] executive level, the ownership level,” said Grubman, the league’s executive vice president of NFL ventures and business operations. “There are some unique aspects to this bid. It’s the largest media center. It’s one of the largest business centers in the world. It’s a tri-state area. There are two teams in one stadium. There are other people looking at this and saying, ‘We want to see how this comes out.’ I think the owners are definitely evaluating how this goes, how our fans like it, how our [business] partners like it. It’s not just the weather. There are a lot of aspects unique to this market.”
The logistics to a Super Bowl in the New York area are tricky, with the teams staying in New Jersey and the media based at Times Square in Manhattan. Yet Grubman said he’s “very confident” those logistics will be managed seamlessly for the teams, media members and fans.
“We’ve gotten the buy-in of the New York and New Jersey authorities and New York and New Jersey law enforcement,” Grubman said. “They’re used to putting on giant events. I think people are going to be able to get around, get to where they want to go and enjoy themselves.”
The great unknown, of course, is the weather. The current forecast is for a partly to mostly clear day in the New York area on Super Bowl Sunday, with temperatures at kickoff in the mid to low 30s, according to the Capital Weather Gang.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the coldest game-time temperature for a Super Bowl played in an outdoor stadium is 39 degrees. That came in Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. That record could fall in New York. But the bigger issue is whether the chill will be accompanied by ice or snow.
Organizers have talked about plans to melt and move snow if needed. The league has contingency plans to play the game on a different day, any time from the Friday before to the Monday after, if the worst-case weather scenario unfolds. According to Grubman, the league has spoken to NASA officials about how they deal with weather forecasts for launches and has hired an expert to help with the interpretation of various weather models. The numerous weather forecasts that pour into the NFL’s offices are studied closely.
“It’s a continuous stream,” Grubman said. “They are not countable.”
Mara was asked in a midweek phone conversation whether he was confident everything would go smoothly. He laughed and said: “After yesterday’s snowstorm?”
“I think we’ll be prepared,” Mara said. “There’s a lot for people to do here. I think people will enjoy themselves. Hopefully we’ll get a decent day for the game. . . . I’m hoping for anything but extreme weather. You just want a situation where the people in the stands are comfortable and the game on the field won’t be affected.”