Confident Super Bowl officials say 'let it snow'

2:25 PM, Dec 19, 2013   |    comments
A mound of snow is seen outside of MetLife Stadium before a game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in East Rutherford, N.J. (Photo: Peter Morgan, AP)
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EAST RUTHERFORD (USA TODAY Sports) - For a half hour Wednesday morning, NFL and state transportation officials stepped to a makeshift podium in a snow-laden MetLife Stadium parking lot and unveiled a comprehensive plan to handle the kind of winter-weather storm that could wreak havoc on the first Super Bowl contested in a cold-weather, outdoor venue.

And after running through all the contingencies that may be in play Feb. 2, there was a message for Mother Nature: Bring on the snow.

"I think watching NFL football in the snow is really romantic, and it's great, and it's exciting," said Frank Supovitz, the senior vice president of events for the NFL who will be among the officials in charge of Super Bowl XLVIII operations.

"It's also a rite of passage for you as a fan to have (sat through) it at least once. And this is a Super Bowl so I think it would be amazing. I actually think it would be better if it snowed a little bit during the game. Let it snow."

The procession of officials displayed increasing confidence in their ability to pull off the sporting spectacle.

Brad Mayne, president of MetLife Stadium, pointed to how last Sunday's New York Giants game went off without a hitch despite a preceding storm that included six inches of snow and ice as evidence the site of Super Bowl XLVIII can handle adverse weather conditions.

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Standing in front of the same snow-removal trucks used to clear MetLife Stadium and its surrounding northern New Jersey roads, state Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Mrozek said more than 16,000 workers, 2,400 trucks and dozens of snow-melting machines will be ready to ensure safe conditions.

Al Kelly, president of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, said if the stock market can manage to stay open during virtually any winter-weather calamity, there's no reason to believe the most-watched sporting event in the world can't kick off as scheduled at 6:30 p.m. ET, even under blizzard-like conditions.

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While Supovitz conceded contingency plans are in place in the event of a severe snowstorm, he said "our objective is to kick off the ball at 6:30 on Feb. 2."

"We're going to be expending every effort to make sure that gets done, but if it's necessary due to matters of public safety then rescheduling scenarios need to be considered," Supovitz said. "The contingency is literally just that. If we're seeing something that will cripple the region, then we'll have to make a decision based on the information we will have available.

"How late we do that will be as late as possible so that we can potentially hold the game on Sunday. If it needs to be rescheduled there are some logistical and operational things we would need to consider."

Supowitz may get his wish for snow if some early forecasts come true. Just this week, Accuweather.com's long-range forecast team predicted a "favorable pattern for a stormy start to February" for the two states hosting the Super Bowl in less than seven weeks. The website also noted the average low temperature on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford is 24 degrees and the area typically receives 2.2 inches of snow during the first week of February.

"All of us here I'm sure are hoping for clear skies, sunny weather and 40-plus degrees," Mrozek said.

"But our job is to plan for the worst and make sure that this cold-weather, outdoor Super Bowl comes off without a hitch. While this Super Bowl is justifiably being touted as the first mass-transit Super Bowl, the roads, bridges and tunnels will no doubt play a crucial role in bringing the teams and fans to the events. Our goal is very simple and that's to deliver a level of service that basically renders us invisible."

To that end, Mrozek said 821 agency-owned or contractor trucks will be ready to clear roadways and parking lots of snow, ice and disabled vehicles. In addition, the agency has a stockpile of nearly 60,000 tons of salt within 30 miles of MetLife Stadium.

New York's Department of Sanitation announced it will deploy more than 6,000 workers, 2,000 plowable garbage trucks, 440 salt spreaders and 36 snow melters because many of the Super Bowl-related events will be hosted in the city.

"The good news is this region is ready," Kelly said. "As the first Super Bowl to have two states to host we'll have plenty of assets available. The reality is a snowstorm can hit at any time, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't be able to move around or football shouldn't be played.

"The key is to be prepared, have the resources in place and to be able to remove the snow efficiently. There is no doubt that our people working at the stadium and our partners will be able to handle it."

Over the past two weekends, NFL games in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cleveland have been impacted by varying degrees of winter-weather issues and Kelly said Super Bowl Host officials add to their preparedness plan "every time there's an opportunity to learn."

Prior to the Super Bowl, the MetLife Stadium playing field will be tarped and insulated with heating blowers to ensure a proper artificial turf surface. But how will officials handle the removal of snow during the game?

"There's a protocol that's in place for all our games," Supovitz said. "The focus is going to be on the field during the game so if there is heavy snow as there was the last two weekends we'll be focusing on the lines to make sure that we're taking care of the field as appropriate."

The news conference, which was held in below freezing conditions, included a demonstration of the snow-melting machinery utilized at the facility.

Supovitz said it will be NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who will make the ultimate call on whether to reschedule the game, and added pushing back the Super Bowl to the following Sunday "is a scenario that I think is incredibly unlikely."

Sargeant writes for the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press.

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