City Getting Super: From fireworks to fashion, Jersey City gears up for Super Bowl XLVIII

“You can’t miss it; take a left off Marin Boulevard, onto Super Bowl Drive….” Don’t be astonished if you hear something like that between January 26 and February 3. By a unanimous City Council vote last Wednesday night, Christopher Columbus Drive will be temporarily renamed for the lead-up to the big game.

On Sunday, February 2, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will meet in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. And though the Giants and Jets fell short of the playoffs this season, Super Bowl Week will have many local connections, with Jersey City a major part of the action. Most notably, both teams will be staying in Jersey City hotels: the AFC champion Broncos at the Hyatt Regency, and the Seahawks representing the NFC at the Westin. Banners hung along “Super Bowl Drive” will greet players to town as they arrive via charter bus from Newark Liberty International Airport.

MAJOR EVENTS

Jersey City, in conjunction with the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce, will host welcoming events at both hotels, which will be open to the public. Dates and times for these events are still to be determined, but last year, the San Francisco 49ers arrived in New Orleans on Sunday night a week before Super Bowl XLVII, while the Baltimore Ravens got into town on Monday afternoon. The Westin and Hyatt events will feature live music, hot chocolate, and activities for children.

“We have been working closely with the NFL both regarding the preparations for the teams’ arrivals and logistics for the week of—and game day,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement. “Having the teams in Jersey City is an honor and we are ready for the world to take notice of Jersey City during the nation’s largest annual sporting event.”

Jersey City will also be home to the first-ever Super Bowl Kickoff Spectacular Concert. Tickets were free, and “sold out” very quickly. The event—beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, January 27, at Liberty State Park—will include musical performances from Daughtry (led by the American Idol alum), ’90s alt-rock heroes Goo Goo Dolls, and more. Joe Buck and Erin Andrews from FOX’s sports crew are hosting the show. For those who did obtain tickets, do not bring large bags, backpacks, alcohol, coolers, or strollers into the park. For those not attending, portions of the show will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. And, due to inability to collect tickets for the sky, most in town should be able to catch a glimpse of the Macy’s Fireworks which will conclude the concert. The display, launching from a pair of barges on the Hudson River, is scheduled to begin at 8:45 p.m.

IN THE COMMUNITY

Earlier on Monday the 27th, the NFL student diversity program “One World: Connecting Communities, Cultures, and Classrooms” will stage a special event at the Liberty Science Center. Through the program, fifth graders from ten different New Jersey and New York schools—covering a wide range of ethnic and racial backgrounds—have been communicating via pen-pal notes. During this three-hour “Super Huddle,” the students will meet in person for the first time. Science and culture workshops are planned, and the children will also get to interact with NFL players.

Though no Jersey City schools are participating in the Science Center event, local children will still benefit from Super Bowl XLVIII. The Snowflake Youth Foundation—the charity wing of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee—recently donated $180,000 for new, energy-efficient lighting at Jersey City’s Ed “Faa” Ford Athletic Complex at Caven Point. Overall, a $1 million grant from the NFL Foundation, matched by the Host Committee, is funding a variety of projects throughout New Jersey and New York to keep children healthy and active.

FOR THE NON-FANS

Even sports-shunners will have a hard time avoiding gridiron references during the upcoming fortnight. Jersey City Fashion Week is presenting… you guessed it… Football Fashion Week from January 23–25. Events include an opening gala, emerging designer show with NFL veterans on the runway, and a cognac tasting. Meanwhile, Hoboken’s Barsky Gallery (49 Harrison Street) hosts “Art’s Salute to Football” from January 25 to February 8. On display: ordinary footballs transformed into objets d’art via surprising enhancements and adornments. In addition, former Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin and former Giants defensive end Matthew Rice will both have paintings at the exhibit. “It is such a pleasure to showcase the work of talented local artists,” said gallery owner Al Barsky. Some proceeds from both the fashion and art events will benefit the Snowflake Youth Foundation.

For those seeking fine dining—and Super soup bowls—15 Jersey City restaurants will be extending Hudson Restaurant Week through February 2. The eateries are offering lunch and dinner specials; tailgating is likely frowned upon.

LOCAL READINESS

With all the different events and the expected influx of fans and curiosity seekers, Jersey City is certainly stepping up its readiness. Tuesday, January 21nd, the city’s Department of Public Safety—along with the Office of Emergency Management—will hold a preparedness exercise. The goal is to have established responses for any situation that might arise during Super Bowl Week, be it law enforcement or a weather event. United Water, PSE&G, and business owners will also be in attendance. “We have the responsibility of ensuring the safety of our residents, the teams, and all visitors to our city,” said Mayor Fulop.

Along the same lines, earlier in the month Jersey City sponsored a Human Trafficking Awareness Symposium. The focus was on educating hotel staffers and public safety personnel about warning signs of individuals forced into prostitution. While this may strike some as random or excessive, similar awareness efforts have taken place in the past few Super Bowl host cities. The underlying idea is that massive crowds that are primarily male are viewed as ideal locations for such illicit activity.

Whatever the case, many extra people are definitely anticipated in town. Estimates are that the Super Bowl will bring 400,000 visitors to northern New Jersey. In what’s being dubbed the first “mass transit Super Bowl,” local rail, bus, and ferry services are planning for the sudden spike in passengers. The PATH system, projecting a 20-percent rise in weekday ridership during Super Bowl Week, will increase off-peak frequency on the Newark-World Trade Center line starting January 27, and on both 33rd Street lines beginning January 29. Overnight service on all lines will be increased for the full week.

One has to imagine that the Broncos and Seahawks won’t be taking public transportation from Jersey City to their practice facilities in East Rutherford and Florham Park, or to the big game itself. But keep an eye out for those luxury charter buses along Super Bowl Drive as you take in a week’s worth of events, activities, and revelry. (Visit the online Hudson County Huddle Zone for further details and updates.) Alternately, lock yourself in your apartment until it all blows over.

Fireworks photo Steve Gold

Jack Silbert

is a writer, editor, internet-radio DJ and occasional emcee. He is the author of several books and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York Press, New Jersey Monthly, Weird NJ, and other publications. Jack’s humorous ramblings can be found at Salt In Wound.