Just hours before kickoff, some fans were frustrated as they endured long lines at a train station, but then they settled down and enjoyed the party-like atmosphere and comparatively mild temperatures at Sunday night’s Super Bowl in the Meadowlands, the first ever in the New York area.
The event had received mixed reviews in the host state, where some government officials and business owners said they felt left out and had not seen some of the promised benefits. But fans at the game praised the electric atmosphere, both in New York City leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII and at the game itself.
But then, after the game, the frustrations arose again as fans were stuck in long lines and were told that it could take more than an hour to board a train.
Giants owner John Mara said he received so much praise for the event, the first-ever Super Bowl played outdoors at a cold-weather site, that he plans to seek another for MetLife Stadium.
“It’s pretty safe to say we’ll be looking to do this again,” Mara said in an interview during the game. “I’ve had so much positive feedback. … I think we should do it again. There are a lot of worthy cities, but let’s face it, there’s only one area like this in the world. I’ve had a couple of owners say to me, ‘Why did we wait this long?’Ÿ”
Secondary-market ticket prices for Super Bowl LXVIII settled at a bottom-line price of $1,500 just before the game. Higher ticket prices had been expected because the game was being played near New York City.
National Football League officials, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, had seemed to embrace the possibility that the game would feature cold and snow, but the temperature was a relatively balmy 49 degrees at kickoff, and the record for the coldest Super Bowl was safe. In fact, the temperature at the start of Sunday’s game came in third-lowest among Super Bowls.
The game more than lived up to its advance billing as the first mass transit Super Bowl. More than 28,000 took the train to the game, setting a record for an event at the stadium and more than doubling NJ Transit’s initial estimates of riders.
The fans, many of them from the New York-New Jersey area, were so loud early in the game that FOX TV sports announcers said it didn’t seem like the typical corporate crowd at a Super Bowl.
A Seattle Seahawks fan from California, Justin Matheson, sitting in the very top row of the stadium, said he paid $1,700 for a ticket to sit in an area usually known as the “cheap seats.” He said he was having a great time.
“We call this heaven up here,” he said. “It’s not about the seats during the game. It’s about the entire experience — going to New York and the Boulevard. The game is the end game, but it’s about the whole package.”
Shortly after the game ended, crowds began to build at the Meadowlands train station, mirroring lines at the Secaucus Junction station before the game. The Secaucus station is the only rail access to the Meadowlands station.
“They want people to take mass transportation — there’s no lines here; it’s a free-for-all,” said Bob Mannis, 64, of Bedford, N.Y.
At 10:45 p.m., the Super Bowl host committee asked people to remain in the stadium because of backups at the train station.
As the line grew to be more than 200 yards long and six to 12 people wide, stadium employees at the Meadowlands rail station invited fans to return to the stadium for refreshments. The crowd booed when he told them there would be only non-alcoholic beverages.
“This is a disgrace,” one man said as he waited in line.
The lines, though thinning, were still in place nearly two hours after the game ended.
NJ Transit spokesman John Durso Jr. said the agency could move 12,000 people an hour on the MetLife Stadium spur.
Hours before the game, fans who were packed into the Secaucus rail station appeared frustrated as numerous trains converged on the depot at the same time.
Sunday’s ridership on the rail shuttle to the stadium eclipsed the record of 22,000 in 2009 for a U2 concert, Durso said. NJ Transit originally predicted between 10,000 and 12,000 riders but increased its estimate to 15,000 late last week because of mild weather, Durso said.
The agency took into account the possibility that crowds might be larger than that, Durso said, and delays going into and out of New York were relatively minor.
Al Kelly, president of the New York-New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee, said Friday that he expected 10,000 to 12,000 fans to travel by train to the game and between 40,000 and 50,000 to take buses. Access to the stadium was restricted to rail and bus riders, and to those in cars with parking passes.
The roads to the stadium were relatively empty.
Sunday afternoon, NJ Transit reported delays of 20 to 30 minutes, but trains were back on schedule a little more than two hours before game time. By then, the crowds had thinned out. The delays did not affect the rail shuttle between Secaucus and MetLife Stadium because cars left for the stadium as soon as they were filled.
By the time fans arrived at the stadium, after passing through metal detectors and an extensive security screening process, their spirits seemed much improved.
Some fans seemed almost disappointed with the mild temperatures, saying they had prepared for the first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl. They said they were ready for temperatures to dip during the game.
Marcy Bertheau of Vancouver, Wash., who said she brought a poncho for rain, was wearing ski gloves and two layers of socks. Other spectators wore multiple layers of clothing along with hats, scarves and gloves bearing the logos and colors of their favorite football teams.
“We’re part of history to be at the first open-air, cold-weather game,” said Lacey Carpenter, a Broncos fan who had traveled from Baton Rouge, La., for the game.
One Denver fan, Julie Wafer, said that she enjoyed her first trip to New York but might have been even happier had the game itself been played in a warm-weather city such as Miami.
“I hate to say it, because we’d love to host a Super Bowl in Denver, but if I’d paid thousands of dollars [for tickets] and there was snow, I wouldn’t be too happy,” she said.
The halftime show starring Bruno Mars, featured high school students, including 135 members of the Bergenfield High School band, holding up LED panels.
Bergenfield’s band director, Brian Timmons, said in a telephone interview after the show that the students who participated were sworn to secrecy, telling only their parents, after agreeing to be part of the show in November.
They had been referring to the show as “Operation Groundhog,” he said, a reference to the date of the game.
Thomas Monaghan, a senior drum major, said the experience was “definitely the coolest” and that he and his fellow band members had been both excited and nervous about the performance, although they have already performed as extras in a couple of movies.
“We were a little nervous that the adrenaline would get the best of us, but it didn’t,” he said.
Before the game, there was a party atmosphere at the half-dozen security pavilions set up at the stadium as fans cheered and disc jockeys played music ranging from Jay Z to Frank Sinatra.
The lines moved quickly as fans emptied their pockets, were patted down and passed through metal detectors manned by state police and private security. As they exited the pavilions, fans received hand warmers stamped with the NFL Super Bowl logo and towels stamped with each team’s logos.
One Broncos fan from Colorado, Brian Staley, said it took two hours to get from Manhattan to MetLife Stadium. He described the commute as “nuts” but added that he was having “a lot of fun, even waiting for the train.”
“I don’t think this was a shock to anyone,” Staley, wearing a bright orange Denver Broncos jersey, said of the commute and security measures.
Fans said they were reassured by the tight security at the game. A couple from Colorado, Patrick and Candiss Lujan, praised the security personnel.
“Everybody’s been so nice,” Patrick said.
“The hardest part so far was getting on the train” at Secaucus Junction, Candiss said. “There were too many people in one place.
A Seattle resident, William Bell, said he boarded the first train out of Secaucus in the afternoon and had no problems getting to the stadium. “It’s been an excellent trip,” he said. “It was no problem at all. Everybody who planned this did an excellent job.”
State police Capt. Stephen Jones said fans were well-behaved, with four disorderly persons arrests by halftime, including one for trespassing and one for being an unauthorized vendor.
Earlier in the day, the borough of East Rutherford, perhaps feeling a little left out of mainstream events, held its own Super Bowl tailgate party that included bands, a beer tent that took up an entire half-block of Park Avenue, food trucks and sports events for children. More than 7,000 tickets were sold for the event, said Mayor James Cassella.
Cassella said the event might have been more successful had the NFL paid more attention to New Jersey, holding events here or allowing East Rutherford to advertise its connection to the game.
“It’s a shame the NFL didn’t help us at all,” he said. “This event could have been even bigger. These are the real football fans, but the NFL doesn’t care about them. All they care about is the big corporate and Hollywood people.”
The NFL had said the game would generate $550 million in revenue for the area but it was too early Sunday to track that prediction. Before the game, some independent economists cautioned that the number could be less than half of that amount. Much of that money was expected to be spent in New York City, where most of the fans were staying and most of the big pregame events were held.
Some local business owners who had been enthusiastic about the prospect of the game generating business for them a year ago were disappointed that some promised benefits never materialized.
“It was a bust,” said Karen Jacobsen, the president of Data Screening, a Woodland Park screening business that put itself on a list of potential contractors but never received a call.
But at least one small business man was expecting Sunday to be a bonanza.
Howard Elliot, a Mrs. Fields vendor at MetLife Stadium from Woodland Park, said the Super Bowl meant just one thing: "It’s all about making money for me."
Staff Writers John Brennan, Kim Lueddeke, Karen Sudol, Karen Rouse, Christopher Maag, Rebecca D. O’Brien, John Cichowski, Art Stapleton and Linh Tat contributed to this article. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org