New York City is in the grips of an intense winter storm -- a foot of snow or more is expected to arrive once night falls. Many flights are cancelled, public transportation is at risk of being suspended, and a population is preparing for power outages.
Now, imagine today is Super Bowl Sunday.
This is the risk the NFL is taking by granting MetLife Stadium hosting duties for the 2014 Super Bowl next winter. A blizzard in the region doesn't happen that often, but the NFL could hit the weather lottery next Feb. 2 when New York and New Jersey are slated to host the league’s championship game.
“We know New York City and New Jersey will be prepared,” said NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello.
Al Kelly, the president and CEO of the New York and New Jersey Super Bowl host committee, released a statement Friday as the blizzard bore down on the area.
“The main objective of the NFL and the host committee is to be prepared for any and everything, with regard to weather. We have been planning for all possibilities and are creating various contingency plans to deal with each potential situation.”
Some fans like the idea of a cold weather game, where the conditions add a layer of difficulty to the competition. Last week in New Orleans, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the possibility that the roofless northeast Super Bowl could make it more challenging.
“The game of football is made to be played in the elements,” Goodell said. “Now, we hope they're not extreme, on one hand. But we’ll be prepared for that if that's the case. Some of our most classic games were played in extreme weather conditions. You know them all: The Ice Bowl. Some of the games that I look back as a fan and say, ‘That was fun.’”
But it would take a lot of work just to get the field at MetLife playable in conditions that could potentially include two inches of falling snow per hour or 50-mile-per-hour winds across the icy Meadowlands.
“As it pertains to a clean-up effort, MetLife Stadium has excellent snow clearing procedures,” Kelly said in his statement. “The host committee is currently working with stadium officials to enhance its current top-notch capabilities. Both states -- New York and New Jersey -- and New York City have strong track records preparing for and handling adverse weather conditions and we have every confidence that we will be prepared.”
Run-of-the-mill NFL fans aren’t currently able to buy tickets to the Super Bowl. The 80,000 or so seats in MetLife will be reserved for the two teams and their season ticketholders, as well as NFL business partners and sponsors. How many of those people would even consider using public transportation to get to the game, or sitting in the cold? The suites and plush clubs can only handle so many people comfortably.
Even private planes can’t land when an airport is closed due to a blizzard.
In 2011, the NFL postponed a preseason Jets-Giants game due to Hurricane Irene’s forecast path. The storm didn’t end up doing the kind of damage that was anticipated, although a year later Hurricane Sandy devastated the region.
A bigger issue may be, how could you prioritize a football game during a weather event that puts citizens at risk? If the Rockaways flood during a tidal surge, the city will need to send emergency responders to the more imminent threat.
In front of Nemo, New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg’s office issued a weather advisory, and the first recommendation was that the public stay off the roads. A report from Reuters already noted that Sandy-wearied New Yorkers were lining up to get gas in anticipation of another possible shortage.
The odds that a blizzard will hit during the Super Bowl are slim, but the challenges of hosting the game in this weather would be daunting.
Just ask Dallas.