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MetLife Stadium crew ready to become quick-change artists

An inside look at the preparations for MetLife

An inside look at the preparations for MetLife Stadium on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, as it prepares to host the Jets on Saturday night and the Giants on Sunday afternoon. Photo Credit: MetLife Stadium

Fans at this weekend’s Jets and Giants games will notice something missing from the end zones: color.

For the first time in MetLife Stadium’s seven-year history, the teams will be aiming to reach — or defend — blank end zones, with nothing but nine white, diagonal lines to decorate an area otherwise the same generic green as the rest of the field.

The unprecedented plan is the result of two factors:

The first is because it’s the fastest Jets-to-Giants changeover which stadium staff ever has had to pull off, from an 8:25 p.m. Dolphins-Jets game on Saturday to a 1 p.m. Lions-Giants game on Sunday.

The second is the forecast for inclement weather. Had the forecast been better, the end zones would have been changed from Jets to Giants colors and logos, MetLife Stadium CEO Ron VanDeVeen said on Wednesday.

But converting the end zones is the most complex part of changing over the stadium, so all concerned opted for a conservative route.

“It’s the same quality as the regular end zones,” said VanDeVeen, who consulted with the teams before making a decision, “but we’ll put those in so we can keep the appropriate maintenance this weekend.”

There have been eight previous occasions since the current end zone system was installed in 2013 that MetLife had to be converted from Jets to Giants — or vice versa — from one day to the next, but never in such a short time frame.

In September 2014, Syracuse and Notre Dame played on a Saturday night followed by a Sunday afternoon Lions-Jets game. But workers were able to get a head start by installing some Jets signage outside the stadium before the college game.

That won’t be possible this time. “It’s one of those weekends where we’re going to earn our money, that’s for sure,” said VanDeVeen, who has been working at the Meadowlands for 27 years.

A crew of 73, from laborers to electricians to management, will leap into action after the Jets game ends around 11:30 p.m., changing lights, banners, Rings of Honor, team store merchandise, the wrap on the wall surrounding the field, even artwork in the hallways outside the suites.

In all there are over 1,200 manual elements and more than 7,000 digital elements involved.

Oh, and then there are tasks such as resetting the Dolphins locker room for the Giants postgame news conference and the Jets postgame news conference for the Lions locker room. You get the idea.

At the same time, concession companies will be restocking all night for the next wave of fans, and parking lots will have to be cleaned and readied for the first Giants fans by 8 a.m. Sunday.

Both NBC (for the NFL Network telecast) and Fox will have their production trucks parked on site by Friday.

As for the weather, “Obviously, we’re watching the forecast,” VanDeVeen said. “We have meteorologists on call that we talk to and I think they’re getting sick of us calling them right now.”

Given all of the above, was VanDeVeen rooting for the NFL to flex the Giants into the Sunday night slot, which was considered a possibility before the Buccaneers and Cowboys got the nod instead?

“That was definitely a discussion,” he said. The staff saw the potential challenge when the schedule came out in the spring and started analyzing the odds the Giants might be flexed. The Giants and Lions cooperated by getting off to good starts, but still, no such luck.

“It’s a weird thing, but the guys like this challenge,” VanDeVeen said, recalling frenzied summer changeovers from concerts to football and back. “Now, you throw the weather in and it makes it a little tougher. We’d rather not have to deal with the weather. But that’s OK. We love to do this, actually.”

He added, “We’ll be here. We have our blowup mattresses and we’re ready to go.”


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