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MetLife Stadium’s massive Super Bowl makeover

Posted January 3, 2014

Even if Super Bowl XLVIII isn’t blasted by a blizzard, you probably won’t recognize MetLife Stadium come the night of Feb. 2. Though every stadium that hosts the Big Game gets a makeover, the first 47 likely will pale in comparison to the transformation the NFL has in mind — some of it out of necessity — for the first Super Bowl to be held outdoors in the Northeast. How big? It will require more than 10,000 workers starting a full month in advance and potentially battling the elements to get the 82,500-seat stadium ready for its much-anticipated close-up. “It’s clearly going to be a historic occasion,” said Frank Supovitz, who oversees the Super Bowl as the NFL’s senior vice president of events. “There’s a first time for everything, and you only have one chance to get it right the first time. That’s why we’re all so incredibly focused on every last detail we see coming.” The Giants’ and Jets’ pain — both host teams ended up missing the postseason — will be the NFL’s gain, at least in terms of getting the four-year-old stadium ready for the Super Bowl. With no local playoff games to get in the way, the overhaul of the building and the massive perimeter required by the Department of Homeland Security for a Level 1 national security event was set to begin Thursday, just four days after the Giants ended their season at home against the Redskins. The perimeter, which must be a minimum of 300 feet from the stadium, is the main reason the NFL needs so much construction lead time. The perimeter will be 2 ¹/? miles of chain-link fence ranging from six to eight feet high, with “welcome pavilions” containing 130 metal detectors that will be constructed just outside those fences where fans will have their tickets scanned and go through security on game day. Modal Trigger Security outside the Superdome in New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XXXVI . Photo: AP The league also will have vehicle inspection areas constructed inside the perimeter to make sure everything — and they do mean everything, in light of the Boston Marathon bombings — delivered to the stadium gets a computer screening. The tight setup in the Meadowlands complex combined with the huge safety requirements will make for some strange bedfellows outside the stadium. The perimeter is so large the old grandstand at the Meadowlands Racetrack, the Izod Center and that arena’s parking garages and pedestrian walkway will all end up inside it. “It’s a very complex installation,” Supovitz said of the perimeter. “It’s not a big circle. It’s really got a lot of arms and legs to it. It’ll be much like you see at an airline terminal.” Security isn’t the only thing being constructed inside the perimeter, though. The league also is building broadcast facilities within for Fox and the 28 international networks televising the game, as well as photo and media work rooms for the record 5,500 media credentialed to cover the game. Compared to all of that, converting the inside of the stadium and overhauling the playing surface will be a relative breeze. Although it could change depending on the weather in January, Supovitz said the current plan is for the Super Bowl grounds crew — which numbers almost 25 employees — to start transforming the stadium’s field turf two weeks before the game. The current playing surface won’t be replaced, but it definitely will get a huge refresher. As well as having Super Bowl logos painted onto it, the turf will be thoroughly cleaned and heated, then have a tarp placed over it. There will also be blowers underneath the tarp that will keep the turf warm and evaporate any moisture in the two weeks leading up to the game. The only things that will be new about the turf are the end zones. Special decorative end zones with team colors and logos will be built for the four finalists as soon as the division playoffs are concluded in mid-January, then installed when the conference championships are played the following week. While the field work is going on, construction workers inside the stadium also will build an auxiliary press box for several thousand reporters in one end zone. The finishing touches will come the week of the game, when the NFL will plaster the stadium with Super Bowl signage and logos, team logos and banners. The walls of the stadium also will be redecorated with signage evocative of the New York-New Jersey region, although neither the Giants nor the Jets will be represented. The decoration actually will be the easiest part, thanks to the $1.6 billion stadium’s original design that made converting it a relative turnkey operation. That’s out of necessity, considering it’s the only building in the league with two primary tenants. “The two-team model does make it very easy for us, because they’ve taken a very minimalist approach with signage, scoreboards and walls,” said Supovitz, who is overseeing his ninth Super Bowl. “In this case, less is more. So in terms of the Super Bowl, it makes it much simpler to convert the stadium than it would be at just about any other place. It’s like an overnight conversion here, because of the two teams.” So if the weather cooperates and everything goes according to plan, Supovitz and his crew will be able to savor what could end up being the most memorable setting for a Super Bowl in the league’s history. That’s certainly how Supovitz hopes it works out, and not just because it’s his job. A Queens native who now lives on Long Island, Supovitz wants this game to succeed out of hometown pride. “A lot of us [at the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters] have lived in New York for a long time, and I, for one, was born here,” he said. “You grew up never thinking about New Jersey or New York as the site for the Super Bowl, and now — hopefully — you will.” That excitement and anticipation is starting to take its toll, though. “We’re ready to stop planning,” Supovitz said, “and start doing.”