The countdown is on to the Greatest Show on Turf, and the unconventional setting for this year’s Super Bowl may result in more than one history-making “first.” Super Bowl XLVIII, set to be played at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on February 2, has the distinction of being the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl. Though the synthetic turf field eliminates the potential for last-minute resodding or divot repair, winter weather may present some unique challenges for the well-seasoned grounds crew.
George Toma, sports turf guru, will be heading to New Jersey mid-January to begin prep for his 48th Super Bowl (yes, he’s worked all of them). Joining George is a crew of around 30 field care superstars, many of whom have 10 or 20 Super Bowls under their belts. George says despite the potential for a snowstorm, the crew is ready, adding “We can’t do nothing about the weather, but we’re prepared for it.”
The crew will have an arsenal of plows, brushes and snowblowers on standby (much of it brought in by Toro), should the snow begin to fall. If the weather is bad in the days leading up to the big game, the field will be kept dry by heaters and blowers under the tarp. If necessary, the end zones will be rolled up and kept in tents during the painting process. George is confident that the crew will be able to keep the entire field clear, even in the event of a snowstorm. With all of the equipment they could need at their disposal, the veteran grounds crew will have the turf game-ready for the big show on Sunday … or Monday. Maybe Saturday?
Should Mother Nature unleash her fury Super Bowl weekend, the NFL has a contingency plan that could push the big game up to Saturday or delay it until Monday. While a Saturday game would eliminate the vast number of bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived workers heading to their jobs Monday morning, the logistics of rescheduling such an enormous event could be a nightmare.
If a snowstorm does blanket the Northeast Super Bowl weekend, cleanup crews will be ready to roll. The New Jersey Department of Transportation has 821 trucks on standby for snow duty within 30 miles of the stadium, and an additional 2,400 trucks could be called in from elsewhere in the state to assist the six plows, 30 front-end loaders and 12 trucks that the stadium has. A massive snow-melting machine that can melt 600 tons of snow per hour will be on-site to help clear a path for the 80,000-plus ticket holders expected to descend on MetLife Stadium.
Whatever the weather, the fans in attendance will be comfortable courtesy of a “Warm Welcome” gift on each seat, which will include hand warmers, earmuffs, a quarterback-style hand muff, lip balm and tissues.
We’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to see if Super Bowl XLVIII will be battled out in a blizzard, but as far as George Toma’s concerned, let it snow!