EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Standing amid giant piles of snow in the shadow of MetLife Stadium, Super Bowl organizers said Wednesday that they're prepared to deploy thousands of trucks and tons of salt to prevent snowy weather from interfering with the biggest football game of the year.
Officials held the press conference to assure the public that snow or ice will not hinder the game on Feb. 2, when it will debut as the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl in NFL history.
The stadium has several snow melters on hand that can clear the fields quickly, including one machine that can melt up to 600 tons of snow per hour, said the stadium's CEO, Brad Mayne. Removable snow chutes can funnel snow out of the seating and concourse areas, he said.
"As you can imagine, Mother Nature and her storms come in many different varieties," Mayne said. "And so we have to be flexible in how we address each and every storm."
Mayne pointed to the most recent storm to hit the region last week, which dropped 6.3 inches of snow and ice on the stadium just hours before the New York Giants played host to the Seattle Seahawks.
"Even though the storm ended just hours prior to kickoff, our experienced crew were able to have the stadium ready," Mayne said.
The stadium plans to have up to 1,600 workers on standby for the Super Bowl, which is double the typical amount of personnel used in most storms.
Officials said they would only consider rescheduling the game in extreme circumstances.
"It is our objective to kick off the ball at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 2," said Frank Supovitz, Senior Vice-President of Events for the NFL. "And we're going to expend every effort ... to make sure that that gets done."
Transportation experts say a snowy football field isn't the issue — after all, many NFL games have previously been played in the snow. But the players might be throwing passes in an empty stadium if the fans can't make it there during a blizzard.
Filling MetLife Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday hinges open the reliability of New Jersey's rails and roads to funnel fans to the game.
"They'll play the game," said Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University. "The question is, they may have to hire mannequins to fill the stadium."
An ice or snow storm would jeopardize the region's airports, causing ground delays or cancellations that would prevent fans from arriving in New York City, including the scores of private jets that will likely touch down at Teterboro Airport, Moss said. Icy roads would also hinder the many buses that will ferry fans from Manhattan to the game.
During a nor'easter last February that crippled the region, for example, NJ Transit suspended bus operations across the state to decrease the number of vehicles on the road and help plows clear the pavement.
At the press conference, New Jersey Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Joseph Mrozek said the state can deploy more than 820 vehicles and about 60,000 tons of salt within a 30-mile radius of the stadium, with even more resources available statewide if necessary.
The state also has more than a quarter of a million gallons of brine and 850,000 gallons of liquid calcium in storage, which are used to treat salt when temperatures drop below freezing.
"We have the trucks, we have the manpower and we have the supplies to fight any major event," Mrozek said.
Interest in whether or not America will have its first snowy Super Bowl has ramped up so much that the forecasting company AccuWeather has created a website asking that very question: www.willitsnow.com.
Launched on Wednesday, exactly 45 days before the game, the site currently predicts a 30 per cent chance of snow on Feb. 2. The site will be updated daily.
On Super Bowl Sunday, it'll update with hourly forecasts for fans who want to track the weather by the minute.