New York Area Breaks ‘Ice Barrier’ as Historic Super Bowl Host
Isaiah Kacyvenski stood coatless in the celebrating crowd at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium and cried.
Kacyvenski, 36, played linebacker for the Seahawks the last time Paul Allen’s National Football League team reached the Super Bowl. Now a Harvard MBA and biotech executive, he hugged his leaping son, wiped away joyful tears, and proclaimed the New York area’s improbable effort to host the most-important event in U.S. sports outdoors, in winter, a big success.
“You couldn’t pass up a New York City Super Bowl -- I get it,” he said, while players from his former team rushed onto the field celebrating their 43-8 championship victory over Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos. “The whole week was, from my perspective, a smashing success. It was run really well. The city, the people. It has the capacity to take on something like this and not even blink.”
It was a historic championship that proved the NFL’s title and its preceding week of corporate revelry could go on without southern latitudes or climate control. Backed by $70 million from sources including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the New York area Super Bowl plowed through transportation snarls, icy game-week weather, prostitution arrests and terrorism threats to climax in the Seahawks upset win over the most prolific passing offense in NFL history.
Allen celebrated with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, then stood among his exuberant players in the locker room, saying the successful game and unseasonably warm weather -- a kickoff temperature of 49 Fahrenheit (9 Celsius) -- ensured this wasn’t the last outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl.
“I have no doubt there’s going to be more, although it didn’t turn out to be as cold as people anticipated,” Allen said after the game. “If it had been snowing the whole time, it might have been different.”
Allen and his fellow owners voted in May 2010 to stage the game in the New York area, the first time the league held the most-popular U.S. sporting event outdoors in a cold-weather location. It was a move Jets owner Woody Johnson last week called a chance to “break the ice barrier,” opening the event to cities including Philadelphia or Chicago. Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch, also co-chairman of the board of Loews Corp., said he wanted to have a New York area Super Bowl every 10 years.
It was an ambitious plan to showcase the region, and Wall Street turned out to support the effort, making up more than one-third of host sponsors. Yet not every one of the nation’s business leaders was excited about attending. Steve Schwarzman, chairman of Blackstone Group LP, said last week he’d watch on television with his family. Ken Langone, who co-founded Home Depot with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, said last week he’d also be watching -- from Florida.
“At this temperature, who wants to be outside?” he said.
New Jersey Infighting
Organizers faced infighting between New Jersey towns competing to attract NFL events, and complaints from those snubbed, all trying to get a piece of what they said was about $550 million in economic benefits. There were delays on New Jersey Transit and the arrest of a ring selling “party packs” of prostitutes and cocaine. Someone mailed white powder to New Jersey hotels near the stadium. Police eventually said it was probably cornstarch.
Temperatures plummeted to the single digits early in the week and demand for tickets on the resale market was average at best, with record numbers of seats for sale. Many hotel rooms and apartment rentals also remained available, with prices falling throughout the week.
The weather improved again, however, as game day approached. The NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee turned a 13-block stretch of Broadway into “Super Bowl Boulevard” complete with a seven-story slide, performances by the Boys Choir of Harlem, the Rockettes and the cast of the musical “Jersey Boys.” Commissioner Roger Goodell held his annual pre-Super Bowl soirée at the Museum of Natural History across from Central Park.
And even the biggest event in the nation’s most-popular sport was subsumed within the glass canyons of Manhattan’s avenues. At rush hour on Friday, one block from the crowds of Seahawks and Broncos fans at 42nd and Broadway, weary commuters in business attire trudged home as usual.
By then, several NFL owners were optimistic about the game and willing to discuss other cold-weather, outdoor sites. Dan Rooney, whose family has owned the Pittsburgh Steelers since they were founded in 1933, said the New York area’s success would make owners more likely to hold the game outside in other cold-weather cities.
“I think you’ll see it,” Rooney said last week. “Maybe not tomorrow, but someday.”
Philadelphia, where the Eagles hosted a celebrated win over the Detroit Lions in a blizzard in December, would make a great location, said team owner Jeff Lurie. While Lurie hasn’t discussed organizing a bid for the game with city or state officials, he said Philadelphia has plenty of hotels, a state-of-the-art stadium accessible to downtown and a newfound enthusiasm for games played in the snow.
“We’d be very excited to participate in that and I think the community would embrace it wholeheartedly,” he said. “We’re going to have beautiful conditions on Sunday, but if in fact there were a lot of snow, to me it would have just been a very special Super Bowl as well.”
On Sunday, the biggest problem was getting to what organizers called the “mass transit Super Bowl’ by train. So many fans arrived early that they jammed the station at Secaucus Junction, complaining about slow security, heat and overcrowding. New Jersey Transit said trains left every 10 minutes with about 1,500 passengers aboard, alleviating the congestion before kickoff.
‘‘It was the worst,’’ said Stephen Horowitz, a Westchester resident who arrived at the station hoping to catch the first train, only to get caught in the rush. ‘‘Once you got here and were walking around, it was nice.’’
Organizers had expected between 10,000 and 12,000 to travel by rail to what they called the first ‘‘mass transit Super Bowl.’’ At 4:30 p.m., NJ Transit said it had ferried a record 27,000. Fans met delays after the game, waiting as long as an hour for a train back to Secaucus. The public address system asked fans to wait in the stadium to ease congestion.
Bus traffic into the stadium flowed comparatively smoothly. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said on Twitter that the crowd had arrived earlier than any he could remember. After the game, fans waited as long as an hour for a train back to Secaucus.
Inside, the temperature hung near 50 degrees. Loudspeakers blared Bruce Springsteen to fans lining up for sausages in the concourse and martinis in the club seats. Soprano Renee Fleming sang the national anthem and Joe Namath, who led the New York Jets to a Super Bowl title in 1969, performed the opening coin toss wearing a superfluous fur coat.
The Seattle defense also began the game hot, scoring a safety on the game’s first play, the fastest points in Super Bowl history. Then they shut down a Denver offense, led by Manning, that was the most prolific in NFL history. Manning passed for 55 regular-season touchdowns, earning him a fifth most-valuable player award.
Kacyvenski, who directs sports business at MC10 Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, celebrated each of Seattle’s successes with his 10-year-old son Isaiah Jr. There were many to celebrate, including a 69-yard interception return by Malcolm Smith, the game’s most valuable player, and an 87-yard kickoff return score by Percy Harvin that opened the second half and quashed Denver’s hopes for a comeback.
Neither wore outerwear until after green and blue confetti covered the field and it was time to go home. It was Isaiah Jr.’s second trip to the NFL title game, after seeing his father’s team lose to Pittsburgh. This time he and his dad were delighted.
‘‘This was kind of a blue print for how the Super Bowl should be run,” Kacyvenski said. “The true test will be in the future Super Bowls that are real cold-weather Ice Bowls.”
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