NFL Super Bowl planner Frank Supovitz ready to 'embrace the cold'

The NFL's vice president of events, Frank Supovitz, The NFL's vice president of events, Frank Supovitz, talks about the NY/NJ Super Bowl XLVIII in his midtown-Manhattan office. (May 29, 2013) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

The calendar last week showed 250 days remaining until what figures to be the most heavily scrutinized of the XLVIII Super Bowls to date, but Frank Supovitz's job doesn't budget time for nervousness.

So when confronted with the looming arrival of the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather region -- an area that presents numerous other challenges -- the NFL's senior VP for events was nothing if not calm.

"We're pretty far down the road, actually," he said of the planning process, then added some perspective: "We're actually already planning the bid process for Super Bowl LII, which is in 2018."

Such is life for Supovitz and his staff, a never-ending four-year cycle in which Super Bowls are awarded, planned, executed and then analyzed to see what can be improved.

But as he sat in his midtown office last week, the person who oversees it all acknowledged that although "every Super Bowl is unique" in its own way, this one clearly is unique in more ways than most.

Start with the fact that the game, scheduled for Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium, is in the NFL's backyard, and in the backyard of many of the people who work for the league.

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That has eased logistics when it comes to the countless meetings involved in the process. It also has provided a deep well of local knowledge and pride.

"A lot of us, having lived here a very long time, one of the things we recognized right off the bat was we're going to have to do things differently here," said Supovitz, 55, who grew up in Queens (where he delivered Newsday as a teen) and now lives in Merrick.

One of the challenges was overcoming the clutter, where "there is a major festival happening somewhere in New York all the time."

Enter Super Bowl Boulevard, in which Broadway from 33rd to 44th streets will be closed the week leading up to the game, serving as a focal point for events and hype, including the TV networks that erect elaborate sets to anchor their coverage.

The idea is patterned after the successful Super Bowl Village in Indianapolis in 2012. But that host city is famously compact. One concern in New York was that without a central gathering place, even an event this big would get lost in the bustle.

The Boulevard also is designed in part to replace the NFL Experience, a popular Super Bowl activity that will not be staged in 2014 because, as Supovitz said, "There really wasn't a good place to put it."

The idea, he said, was "instead of being inside a building where we're promoting it to people who have to be drawn to a particular facility, let's find a way of doing something that brings the Super Bowl to more people by making it big and open and exciting."

While the Boulevard is how most fans without game tickets will experience the event, other important venues will be scattered around the area. The Sheraton New York will be the media center. Two hotels in Jersey City, the Hyatt and Westin, will house the teams, in part because of their enviable views of Manhattan.

Media Day will be moved from the stadium, its traditional location, to the indoor Prudential Center in Newark. The NFC champion will practice at the Giants' facility near MetLife Stadium; the AFC champ will use the Jets' facility in Florham Park.

"At this point we have the vast majority of major facilities identified," Supovitz said. "We have a master schedule for the most part finished. Now it's a question of building infrastructure and systems to make sure all those things work well together."

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The variable no one can control is the game-day weather, which has been and will remain a source of fascination and anticipation.

Supovitz said after years of experience, clearing snow and ice is old hat at the Meadowlands. But: "The thing that is different here is that we have to potentially do it a lot faster. We want to do everything possible to make sure that we kick the ball off on game day at 6:30 in the evening on Super Bowl Sunday.

"We don't want to have to delay for a couple of hours. We don't want to have to delay for a day. That would have serious repercussions."

That's an understatement.

But Supovitz agreed it would require a cataclysmic weather event for it to come to that.

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From the start, the NFL and the local host committee have not shied from the obvious.

"Listen, we're putting our arms around the winter; we're embracing the cold," Supovitz said. "The notion of doing Super Bowl Boulevard out of doors in February is demonstrative of that.

"The message is very clear: It's going to be cold, and we're going to have a ball doing it."

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