NEW ORLEANS — Jay Cicero sat on a couch recently and pondered a number he hadn’t necessarily thought about before when putting together everything for the week of Super Bowl XLVII.
That’s the number of volunteer hours that will go into putting on the game, New Orleans’ 10th time hosting the grand event, when all is said and done.
And for Cicero, the executive director for the New Orleans Host Committee, that doesn’t even begin to count hours put in by him and his staff since the city was awarded this game in spring 2010.
“You put on top of that our committees, which have been meeting monthly for years now and all the time and effort and planning, it’s a three and a half year process that has built up to this week,” Cicero said.
It has been 11 years since New Orleans last hosted the Super Bowl and the event has grown by leaps and bounds.
It used to be a time when the Super Bowl was an expected part of New Orleans’ event schedule. Getting those games and then preparing for them was a different task.
“In the past, it might have been laissez faire, part of our business, ‘Oh, the Super Bowl is coming. It’s great. We want to be a part of it,’ ” Cicero said.
But now the event has taken over nearly every part of the city’s business and tourist areas. Jackson Square has become a CBS compound. The parking lot next to the old Jax Brewery is full of ESPN sets. And the moonwalk will become a de facto Jazz Fest as the week progresses.
That’s not to mention the amount of space being used at or near the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
For the first time in New Orleans, the NFL’s posh pregame tailgate will take place on SMG’s campus instead of at the convention center.
“That’s 10,000 ticketed guests that are invited to a pregame tailgate party and it’s not your normal pregame tailgate party,” said Doug Thornton, senior vice president of stadiums and arenas for SMG. “They’ve got an 80-foot clear-span tent down here in Lot 3. They’re going to use part of Champions Garage and we’re going to use the Arena for the concert. We didn’t do that in 2002.”
When talking about the growth of the game, Thornton mentioned Champions Square and its use as being different from before. It wasn’t there in 2002. And the investment in data antenna systems that will allow fans to text and send pictures is on a greater, more expensive scale, Thornton added.
Meanwhile, 11 years ago, 3,200 media members were credentialed to cover the first Super Bowl after 9-11. This year, that number is north of 5,200.
In essence, New Orleans finds itself with loads of free advertising and must make sure everything looks good and is running correctly.
“It’s just a huge opportunity that doesn’t come along all the time,” Cicero said. “We’ve been the victim of bad publicity, incorrect publicity and we’ve been the victim of correct publicity in the past. This is an opportunity to tell media and tell the world where we are and all the progress that we made and all the great things that are happening in the city, which is a lot.”
As the game has grown, so has the economic impact. In 1997, the Super Bowl had an estimated $249 million impact. Five years later, it was up to $299 million.
When this week is finished, it’s expected that New Orleans’ economy will have seen a $434 million impact, nearly twice as much as Mardi Gras’ estimated $238 million impact.
And ultimately, Cicero said the city will benefit from the improvements made to the city, not necessarily for the game, but sped up because of it.
“The infrastructure improvements, nothing is temporary,” Cicero said. “Our citizens will be able to enjoy the streetcar on a daily basis going down Loyola Avenue. The renovations at the airport. Hall A at the Convention Center and all the events held there. And all the streets around downtown and the French Quarter. These improvements are extremely important to our everyday life but have been accelerated to be finished for Super Bowl.”