January 31, 2014

Super cold: Fans prepare for a chilly Super Bowl

After a chilly week, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks fans warm up to idea of cold-weather Super Bowl -- now that nightmare scenario is unlikely.

In Miami, they have golden sandy beaches. Here, they have rock salt on the sidewalk.

On Ocean Drive, they pop bottles. Here, water bottles freeze at the corner newsstand.

In South Beach, the parties are poolside. Here, they need generator-powered heaters so barelegged beauties don't freeze on the red carpet.

On Biscayne Boulevard, they wanted a zip line. Here, they have a toboggan ride in Times Square.

In South Florida, they want to put a roof on the stadium because of one freak rain storm. Here, they are almost rooting for the coldest Super Bowl on record. Heck, the game's logo includes a snowflake.

"The colder the better," said a grinning Pete Carroll, whose Seattle Seahawks face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48 Sunday.

Bad news, Pete: It's actually supposed to warm up throughout the week and be quite pleasant for kickoff -- relatively speaking. Forecasters are calling for a high of 46 degrees with only a slight chance of precipitation on Sunday.

Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m., so the sun will be down, meaning the all-time record for coldest Super Bowl (39 degrees, set in 1972 between the Dolphins and Cowboys) could fall.

But compared to the weather midweek, it'll feel practically balmy. The polar vortex that crippled much of the country this week blasted temperatures down into the teens Wednesday and Thursday.

A dusting of snow fell overnight Tuesday. On Monday, there's an outside chance it could again. That could be problematic, with tens of thousands of people racing to get out of the city all at the same time.

"It was a roll of the dice," said Rodney Barreto, the South Florida Super Bowl Committee chairman. "They could have had sunny weather, 40 degree temperature, no indication of snow and sleet, and it could have been a major, major home run for them. Unfortunately, look what's going on in the whole country. The only warm spot in the whole country is in South Florida."

Barreto added: "Nobody has control over the weather. They're going to have to deal with it."

The NFL had a contingency plan in place if the nightmare scenario had occurred — a massive, traffic-halting blizzard this weekend. They would even have changed the day of the game if things got really bad. But based on all weather forecasts, that's not going to happen.

Instead, it's going to just be cold — an inconvenience, for sure. But one that was priced in from the outset. Each of the 82,000 people who attend Sunday's game will get a "Warm Welcome" kit, equipped with hand warmers, earmuffs, lip balm, a hat and mittens.

This will be the priciest Super Bowl ever, with an estimated price tag of $70 million. Granted, everything is more expensive in New York. But the logistics of keeping the nation's rich, powerful and famous warm are an added tax.

Just ask the people at Talent Resources, a strategic marketing company tasked with planning the two-night Maxim bash — an event so exclusive, the FBI has touched based to make sure the correct security protocols are in place.

Maxim throws the Super Bowl of Super Bowl parties, but instead of helmets and shoulder pads, the uniform, for ladies at least, is heels and skimpy dresses.

That was weather-appropriate attire back in 2010, when the men's magazine rented out South Beach's Raleigh Hotel.

But temperatures in Manhattan on Friday and Saturday nights will be below 40. That's prompted organizers to spring for two, room-sized generators that will warm the entryway — an unexpected expense in the high five-figures.

Like everyone else, the people at Maxim are trying to make the best of it. They'll have an ice luge — inside, of course — and will distribute hand warmers to those in line.

Weather is an expensive inconvenience, for sure, but it hasn't made a dent in demand for tickets — which aren't for sale to the general public.

"We're worried that too many people are going to show up," said Jeremy Lieberman, a strategic brand manager of Talent Resources' sports division.

You don't need to be (or date) a Kardashian to get into most of the week's events. Just bundle up, because many of them are outside.

Every year, the league sets up a Super Bowl Boulevard in the host city, a fan-friendly stretch of real estate that has attractions and sells commemorative gear. (Not surprising, the $25 official knit cap is a hot seller this week.)

When Miami was last a finalist to host the Super Bowl, part of their pitch was a zip line that would have flown fans along the waterfront. On Broadway in Manhattan, they've erected a four-story slide — giving kids young and old the chance to sled in the middle of nation's biggest city.

"I think it's really cool; the Super Bowl finally came to New York," said Brian Flecker, an 18-year-old student from Long Island who walked Super Bowl Boulevard on Wednesday. "Football's played in all weather, so it's kind of cool that it's finally going to a cold place."

Not everyone is so enthusiastic. Hotel owners, once envisioning a price-spiking bonanza, have been handed a cold dose of reality. Many have slashed prices because the demand simply isn't there — even for the night before the game.

A room at the Doubletree in Manhattan was available for under $200. Boutique hotels in the city had rooms for just over $100. The Hilton in the Fashion District slashed its average rate in half for Saturday, just to fill up their empty rooms.

The secondary Super Bowl ticket market is similarly soft. As of Wednesday afternoon, the median ticket sold on StubHub went for $2,334 — up from 2013's game ($2,172), but down from Patriots-Giants two years ago ($2,500).

And the likelihood is that price will continue to drop throughout the week.

"It's always cheapest to buy closer to game time, tickets being a perishable commodity," said StubHub spokeswoman Shannon Barbara. "In the case of this year's Super Bowl, that will be dependent on weather."

Chris Berman, the longtime ESPN host and member of the NFL media's A-list, is from Connecticut, so as he put it this week, he owns sweaters.

Still, he laments the fact that warm-weather cities like Miami and San Diego have been left out of the Super Bowl rotation because the league views their stadiums as inadequate.

"I think they ought to wait awhile for the next one," Berman said, referring to hosting the game in cold-weather cities.

Added former Ravens coach Brian Billick: "You're tempting providence a little bit to try to do it again."

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