People don’t realize what it takes to put on the biggest and the greatest sporting event in the world – the Super Bowl. A vast number of people work year-round to set up the great Super Bowl “city” year in and year out and make sure it operates effectively. The NFL brings in a specialist to oversee it all. Jerry Anderson, of the company Populous, has been the coordinating architect for the NFL for the past 26 Super Bowls and for seven Pro Bowls. It is unbelievable what they do.

An entire village pops up around the stadium, with as many as 10,000 people working in all phases of the preparation process. There are hundreds of large tents and work trailers, all with their own equipment and support staffs. It is amazing. All this is surrounded by miles of chain-link fence, along with miles of concrete road barriers. The fence is covered with tennis netting painted bumper to bumper with the NFL and Super Bowl logos. It looks very colorful from the outside, while it screens the activity from those passing by.

Weeks of work will go on inside the stadium. With people working from ground level to near the rooftop placing overhead rigging for TV broadcasts and setting up the pregame and halftime show lighting and sound. Signs are everywhere, directing people to different areas and posting restricted areas. The signs are made on-site in a portable sign shop.

Security is tight, with security checkpoints about every 50 yards for miles, and police are everywhere. Each day you go through security before you drive into the parking area, and then there’s a security parking lot attendant to direct you to a parking spot. With all the TV corporate tents, you may have to park 1 to 1.5 miles from the entry. So this year, there was a lot of walking in cold weather.

The main security tent at the entry was nearly 300 yards long. Everyone is checked in there, passing through screening just like at an airport. Then you are checked again before entering the stadium to go to your work area. The area that our crew worked out of was the tunnel surrounding the field, which was about 5/8 of a mile long. You are checked again as you leave the tunnel before you enter the playing field.


PHOTO COURTESY OF MORGUEFILE, KARPATI.

Everyone is also checked when they leave the stadium. In previous Super Bowls, friends could come by to visit. Now no one is allowed on-site except authorized personnel.

The practice fields have tight security – unauthorized personnel can’t get near them – and the team buses even have police escorts.

The halftime rehearsals start eight days before the game, with about five hours a day spent on the field. The week of the Super Bowl, Wednesday is the only free day. The painted logos are covered with geotextile for the halftime and pregame show practices. Still, abrasion happens with all the people and the stages, not only practicing the routines, but the movement of everything in and out. They have to get the many pieces of the stage in place within a certain amount of time. When the performance is over, they have to get it all back out, again within the time allotted. The hundreds of people involved are so dedicated in doing this. They have the right work ethic – attitude, pride “and then some.” The day of the game, millions of people will see the performance. They will see the Black Eyed Peas, but it’s those unknown workers that made it all happen. These unsung heroes deserve a standing ovation.

There is so much activity around, it’s hard to keep track of it all. Over the years, you meet so many people and you become friends with those from all across the country. Just walking around outside of Cowboy Stadium one day, I saw people working on a large artificial turf area near the entrance. There were two co-workers from Missouri Turf Paint. They had all the football field markings done and were painting the NFL Super Bowl logo and a large GMC logo in the end zone. GMC would park its newest models there for the Super Bowl promotion. What were they using to paint? Hudson sprayers; it reminded me of the early Super Bowl days.

Larry Davis of Missouri Turf Paint and I go back some 30 years. The company now sells paint, makes logos and paints fields. Larry may be best known for his involvement with NASCAR. He and his crew paint all those beautiful logos you see at the NASCAR racetracks. He has some very artistic men.

It is heartwarming to see people that you know get off to a good start and go on to become successful in what they do. You all can get there with the right work ethic and the right attitude. One has to do the job continually and keep it up. Like the great Satchel Paige once said, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

George Toma is an NFL Hall of Fame inductee, one of the founders of the Sports Turf Managers Association and mentor to hundreds of sports field managers over his 69 years in the profession. E-mail him at tomatales@sportsfieldmanagementmagazine.com.