Just drive around town, and it’s evident, something’s coming to Jacksonville. You could imagine a big convention is in town. Or it’s some kind of massive city spruce up project, lines on the streets, potholes fixed and shrubs planted. But the world is coming to visit for a week and the place has to look good.
And it does.
The Super Bowl has an impact on a city in many ways, some obvious and some subtle. Sure, a couple of hundred thousand people will be in town for three or four days, spending money and rendering opinions about everything from the river to the weather to who’s actually going to win the game. It’s a complete NFL run production. They have the town dialed in: from parties to the participating teams’ hotels, the league has a handle on just about every detail you can think of.
They’ve got an entire entertainment area set up downtown for the locals and the visitors to mingle. They’re transforming burnt out warehouses into bars and gathering areas. The Commissioner’s party is at Cecil Commerce Center. The Media party is at the 17th hole at TPC. Playboy is at River City Brewing and Maxim is having the party everybody wants to go to.
And it’s all happening in our back yard.
People keep asking me “Are we ready?” The answer is yes, and if anything isn’t ready, fear not. The NFL will fix it. They have unlimited resourses and they’ll paint it or rebuild it or pave it or put some sod over it in order to make it right.
The Super Bowl Host Committee has been way ahead of the game, gathering money and people to make the game feel at home in a new venue. It’s a new concept for the NFL. The Super Bowl is a big celebration that envelopes an entire region. This year, the league is hosting the whole thing within a two mile area. They usually don’t do that. In Miami it’s spread out over three counties. In New Orleans, people are all over the place. In Jacksonville, once you get to town, you won’t need a car. Everything will be within walking distance or a shuttle will take you there.
The logistics of the Super Bowl are amazing. The league has teams of people just in charge of making sure people are transported around the host city without a hitch. Lanes are blocked off just to accommodate the shuttle buses. So prepare to be enveloped by the game and the things that surround it.
And prepare to embrace it.
It could be the only time it’s ever here.
So we can think it’s either a big pain or a big party. It won’t take twice as long to get around, it’ll probably take four times as long.
Media from around the world will be here, and many of they writers and broadcasters will rip us. Rip us as people, as hosts and as a city. But that’s OK. Last year the Los Angeles Times NFL beat writer filed a story from Houston with the dateline “Yahooville.” I laughed when I read that thinking that Houston is the 4th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and he thinks it’s Yahooville? What’s he going to think about Jacksonville?
So I’m going to put on my most hospitable face and enjoy the week.
I’m still going to live here when they all leave, and I already know what a great place this is. If they want to discover that, great. If not, that’s fine too.