Rick Nafe, Tampa Bay Rays, and Jarrod Fresquez, ParkHub, introduce a skype guest, Peter O'Reilly, SVP Events, National Football League, during the Stadium Managers Association meeting. (VT Photo)
REPORTING FROM HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIF. — The giant LED scoreboard, courtesy of PSAV, was a fitting backdrop for proceedings at the Stadium Managers Association convention here Feb. 5-8. A stellar and exciting Super Bowl Feb. 5 in Houston at NRG Park was the buzz and, per tradition, an NFL exec was skyped in to give the 425 managers and vendors in attendance the inside scoop.
Peter O’Reilly, SVP Events for the National Football League, told stadium managers the overall goal of this year’s Super Bowl was “to make it a unifying game day.” With the participation of President Bush 41 and his wife, Barbara, tossing the coin, “it was incredibly special,” O’Reilly said, sharing that when the Bushes were in the hospital just a week prior to Super Bowl, he got a call advising him President Bush was a goal-oriented man and was requesting an official practice coin. “Apparently, the last time he tossed the coin, it fell in his lap and he wanted to get some air under it this time,” O’Reilly said.
History was made. He emerged from the hospital and onto the field for Super Bowl LI, participating in a world-
lass event that included the most “complicated and audacious halftime production in 13 minutes” O’Reilly could recall.
Lady Gaga, star of the halftime show, was never remotely radical and totally into the unity theme of Super Bowl LI, O’Reilly said. “There were a lot of acrobatics. She was fearless.” During rehearsals, she ran around the field and shook hands with every one of the 4,000 volunteers used in the production.
And the message from Pope Francis “aligned with the message of unity we want to get out there,” O’Reilly said.
Jarrod Fresquez, ParkHub, who introduced O’Reilly, worked his second Super Bowl under SP+ and Gameday, and said they parked one car every three seconds for three hours without the system going down or losing connectivity. It was the two-year-old firm’s second Super Bowl parking experience.
The next four Super Bowls are set – U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, next year; the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, in 2019; Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, 2020 and the new stadium in Los Angeles in 2021. The upcoming 2017 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, will show the NFL’s commitment to continued growth, O’Reilly said of future plans. “You’ll see a lot of changes at the Combine. We’re very focused on the draft.”
There will be challenges next year at U.S. Bank Stadium, partly because the NFL requires a 300-foot perimeter around the stadium for security and hospitality purposes, but that will not happen in a downtown stadium which is hemmed in by development. “We will have to zig-zag a little,” he said.
They are also working through the issue of cold weather and the risk it poses to getting people into the stadium from outdoors.
Going forward, the NFL’s timeline for picking Super Bowl sites will be selecting finalists for the next two (2022 and 2023) at the owners' meeting in May of this year, and making final choices in May of 2018. “We’re not doing it every year in the future,” O’Reilly said.
Looking forward, O’Reilly also said cyber security (being prepared for a cyber attack or takeover) and drones are the major threats the NFL is looking at right now.
“I feel we’re striking the right balance” getting fans and staff through security now, he said, but that’s a result of regular and significant table-top exercises around the event.