Coordinator talks XLVIII challenges

Two years ago, the Indianapolis Super Bowl provided football fans with an adrenaline rush -- a zip line through the city streets. The organizers of Super Bowl XLVIII believe they've topped that, with a fan activity at Super Bowl Boulevard in Times Square that has been described as the first of its kind in New York and cooler than a zip line.

What is it? Their lips are zipped, but the plans could be revealed next week at a massive Super Bowl production meeting in New Jersey -- a.k.a. planning week.

About 300 officials -- representatives from the NFL, law-enforcement agencies, construction companies, TV networks and more -- will huddle at the Sheraton Meadowlands in Secaucus, N.J., only a "pooch" punt from MetLife Stadium.

The big day is Tuesday, when all the power players will be in one room as the grand Super Bowl plan is spelled out in detail. The only other full-scale summit is scheduled for December. The remainder of the week will consist of break-out meetings involving the individual committees.

Three years after the New York/New Jersey region was awarded the game, it's crunch time -- 241 days until the first cold-weather, outdoor Super Bowl.

"Next week is a big week for us," Frank Supovitz, the NFL's senior vice president of events, said Thursday in a phone interview. "We're going to get a lot of road behind us."

Because of the weather, the size of New York and potential security issues, it undoubtedly will be the most scrutinized Super Bowl in history. Supovitz said it poses a greater challenge than any of the eight previous Super Bowls he's coordinated.

"Yes, I would say it is," said Supovitz, who was raised in Queens and lives on Long Island. "We've had to invent new things to cut through the clutter of an incredibly busy metropolitan region. So far, at least, it looks like we're succeeding because we're talking about Super Bowl in June, and so are other people. It has captured people's imaginations."

The three primary focuses for next week's meetings are stadium alterations and construction, media day at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and the Super Bowl Boulevard -- the 10-block stretch along Broadway that will be shut down for a Super Bowl-type village, free and open to the public.

Conducting an outdoor event in winter, covering a half-mile on perhaps the most famous and busiest thoroughfare in the world, will take "a feat of great coordination," Supovitz said. Not only will it include entertainment and football-related events, but the Boulevard will serve as the pregame base for several TV networks.

The NFL will meet Monday night at the league offices with government and business leaders to discuss the Super Bowl Boulevard. The challenge of preparing MetLife Stadium is unique because it's the first time the league has used a stadium that houses two teams -- doubling the chances of a home playoff game.

Typically, stadium preparation begins immediately after Jan. 1 -- i.e. building up to 30 broadcast booths, constructing a compound for the halftime show, among other projects in and outside the facility. If the New York Giants and/or New York Jets host a playoff game, it will pose logistical problems.

The league is tackling another first, not having media day at the stadium. It will be indoors in Newark, where the goal is to make it "a bigger celebration" than in past years. The public is allowed to watch one of the true spectacles of Super Bowl week, with 7,000 to 10,000 expected to attend at the Prudential Center, according to Supovitz.

They would like to make it an all-day event, with outdoor attractions for fans.

Naturally, the major storyline leading into Super Bowl XLVIII will be the weather, with the potential of a severe storm possibly wreaking havoc. Supovitz said his greatest fear is ice, not snow, because it's harder to remove.

He said they're "embracing the cold," but he acknowledged a major storm could force a delayed kickoff. If that occurred, he claimed, it wouldn't be because of a lack of preparation.

"In terms of being ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us," Supovitz said, "we need to be ready, we're planning to be ready and we will be ready."

Another major issue is security, especially in light of the Boston Marathon bombing.

The NFL ratcheted up security at the recent draft, held at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. It will adhere to a whatever-it-takes philosophy for the Super Bowl, working closely with local law enforcement. It will use 2½ miles of fencing to secure the perimeter of the stadium and, of course, metal detectors at the gates.

"It's like going through an airline terminal, except we have to put 70,000 or 80,000 people through it in 3½ hours," Supovitz said. "Not many airports can do that."