Secaucus, New Jersey, plans ice sculptures, food trucks and a beer garden only two miles from the National Football League’s championship game. The competition? Manhattan’s Super Bowl Boulevard, featuring concerts, autograph signings and 180-foot-long toboggan run on Broadway.
Secaucus, a town of 18,000 in the shadow of the NFL event, wants to throw a pre-game party for the rare chance to lure tourists. Its plan puts the 5.8-square-mile town in competition with a four-day bash in Manhattan that’s expected to pack 1 million fans from Herald Square to Times Square, known worldwide for its animated billboards and New Year’s Eve revelry.
New York’s celebration is making it harder for communities in New Jersey -- the actual site of Super Bowl 2014, in East Rutherford’s MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 -- to get a bite of the $550 million predicted to flow into the economy.
“This is going to be a New York event,” said East Rutherford’s mayor, James Cassella. “Even though it’s more of a New York-New Jersey thing, it’ll be promoted as a New York game.”
The game has revived the rivalry between New York and New Jersey over the NFL’s Giants and Jets. Both teams make their home in the 82,000-seat MetLife Stadium. And both sport “NY” on their helmets and uniforms.
When the Giants won the 2012 Super Bowl, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the championship parade should be held in his state. It took place in New York, which historically honors teams and celebrities with a ticker-tape parade up lower Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes.
To celebrate Super Bowl 2013 in New Orleans, the NFL joined with the host committee to create a boulevard in Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi River that featured food booths and music stages a short walk from the French Quarter.
This time around, the NFL’s Super Bowl host committee is fully coordinating the New York event, even if it’s 8 miles from the stadium. Features include a display platform for the Vince Lombardi trophy, a stage for autographs and concerts, television broadcast areas, interactive sponsor zones and 36-foot-tall Roman numerals spelling out XLVIII for the 48th game. An NFL spokesman, Brian McCarthy, declined to provide details on its costs or finances.
Jim Kirkos, chief executive officer of the area’s Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, said while the game may boost local costs for police, fire, traffic and cleanup services, revenue connected to the event will still outweigh the expenses. There are early indications that hotel rooms are being booked in higher numbers than the region usually sees in February, he said.
“There’s going to be an influx of business,” said Kirkos, whose Meadowlands group represents 1,100 businesses ranging from mom-and-pop diners to Fortune 500 corporations. “Not every business is going to be the recipient of 10 years’ worth of business in a week. That’s unrealistic.”
Some local restaurants have already received inquiries about being rented out for private functions. His group has organized conventions of local business and government officials to plan for the big game and he urged communities to seize the opportunity.
“It’s hard to compete for sponsorship dollars when you’ve got Super Bowl Boulevard down at Times Square, eight miles from here,” Kirkos said. “This challenge was a little bit higher of a wall to jump over than perhaps we expected earlier on in the process.”
While Manhattan gets Super Bowl Boulevard, Media Day -- when thousands of reporters, photographers and TV crews from around the world interview members of the teams -- will be held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city. In addition, both teams will stay and practice in New Jersey, while thousands of fans and the media fill the state’s hotels.
New Jersey stands to see a significant portion of the estimated $550 million influx from game-related tourism and activity, said Wayne Hasenbalg, president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which oversees the Meadowlands sports complex.
“We’re not just sitting back waiting for the NFL or others to say, ‘OK, New Jersey, here’s what you’re getting,’” Hasenbalg said. “We’re working as closely as we can, but we’re also going to try to maximize the benefit to New Jersey from an economic perspective, to help local vendors and people who provide services.”
New Jersey events will include a celebration at the adjacent Izod Center arena and a tailgate party expected to draw as many as 11,000 people, he said.
Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli said the town is looking to tap some of its corporate citizens to defray costs of its pre-game party, even if they aren’t NFL-sanctioned sponsors. The town is home to an outpost of Goya Foods Inc., which moved its headquarters a mile away to Jersey City after obtaining tax incentives in 2011. The Children’s Place Retail Stores (PLCE) and the U.S. headquarters of Beijing-based China Ocean Shipping, or Cosco, are also there.
Gonnelli said the Super Bowl will result in $50,000 of extra costs for municipal services the week of the game. When some of soccer’s World Cup tournament were played at the Meadowlands in 1994, the town was able to bill the sport’s governing body, FIFA, for $100,000 in costs. NFL officials have told towns they won’t do likewise, Gonnelli said.
“From Day One, the NFL said it would not be paying towns back,” Gonnelli said. “This time we’re kind of on our own. Hopefully, it’s very quiet like any other game day.”
Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, said the financial impact of mega-sporting events like the Super Bowl can end up being as little as 10 percent of the estimates cited as a reason to host the event.
“The figures that the NFL puts out there for PR purposes have been shown repeatedly to be based upon false studies using improper methodology making unrealistic assumptions,” Zimbalist said.
Cassella, the East Rutherford mayor, said his borough hasn’t estimated extra Super Bowl expenses. He said he expects it “to be a wash” for the community. He said he hopes to see some benefit from his community’s portion of hotel taxes.
Hotels near the stadium have gotten Super Bowl fever. In Clifton, about five miles northwest of MetLife stadium, the Howard Johnson Inn is renting rooms for $900 a night the weekend of the game, according to Hotels.com. A month prior to the game, the same rooms cost $85, according to the travel website.
Kirkos said some hotels in the area have held back on booking in hopes that they can increase rates at the last minute.
In Montclair, New Jersey, about nine miles west of MetLife stadium, plans for a lavish tailgating festival on a main drag ran afoul of league sponsorship guidelines. The event was reduced to closing a street as a promotion for downtown restaurants.
East Rutherford’s Cassella, who has season tickets for Giants home games, conceded that out-of-towners who come for the Super Bowl are likely to spend most of their time in Manhattan. New Jersey’s benefits from hosting the game will come from taxes collected in restaurants and hotels.
“I’m a football fan so I’m proud to have the game here, but I also know it’s not worth getting yourself in a frenzy,” he said. “Our payment is the honor of hosting the biggest game in the National Football League.”
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