The Super Bowl is an American tradition, and for New Yorkers, 2014′s edition hits close to home. That’s because MetLife Stadium, just across the river from Manhattan in New Jersey, is hosting Super Bowl XLVIII. The world’s most expensive stadium ($1.6 billion for those keeping track) will get its moment in the international spotlight on Feb. 2, 2014. While you may not be able to afford tickets, you can learn a little bit more about the stadium that hosts the Jets and Giants in regular season and packs in plenty of big-name concerts and other events throughout the year with our list of little-known secrets of MetLife Stadium.
It’s the first open-air, cold weather stadium to host the Super Bowl
History will be made on Feb. 2 when the championship game of the National Football League kicks off for the first time in an open-air stadium in a cold weather city. The get wasn’t easy. It took four different votes by NFL owners before convincing the majority to head north in May 2010, soon after the stadium opened. In the end, New York (er, New Jersey) beat out perennial warm climate favorites Miami and Tampa. The lucky ones that can afford tickets to the game will have to bundle up though — Northeast temperatures often dip into the 20s with highs in the 30s and 40s in February. If it snows, that would be a first too. The Super Bowl has been a snow-free spectacle since the first one in L.A. in 1967. Frozen precipitation would be a sight to see, especially from the comfort of your warm, cozy living room.
MetLife wasn’t the first company to try for naming rights
MetLife, famous for using the Peanuts characters in many of its ad campaigns, ended up paying the most to have their name slapped on a NFL stadium. At $400 million for 25 years, it’s a hefty price, but having the 2014 Super Bowl attention probably helped sweeten the deal. Before Jets and Giants officials made a deal with the huge insurance company in 2011, there were plenty of juicy rumors around bidding for the naming rights. Ashleymadison.com was one of the more surprising names that rose to the surface, but the dating site whose motto is “Life is short. Have an affair.” only offered a short-term deal, so it was not considered a serious contender. Allianz, an international financial company based in Germany, which owns the rights to several European stadiums, was in early talks as well. It ran into trouble, however, with New York Jewish leaders and Holocaust survivors who had concerns about the company’s connections to the Third Reich during the 1930s and ’40s.
Changing from the Jets to Giants, and back again, is complicated
Hosting two NFL teams in one stadium can be a challenge. Scheduling alone has to be a nightmare, but what about signage, scoreboards and all the little details that proclaim, “This is Giants country!” or “This is Jets country”? With 15 to 20 changes per year, it’s a massive undertaking. Management brought in cutting-edge Bruce Mau Design to handle this unique situation. The team designed the stadium to allow for a complete change for each team on game day for a true home-field advantage, no matter who is playing.
To facilitate, the massive exterior facade was composed of aluminum louvers and glass, creating a canvas that can be lit up with filters to represent the day’s home team, changing colors from Jet Green to Giant Blue. It’s a dramatic effect for fans entering the stadium. Once inside, the home-field experience continues with wayfinding signage and projected images in the hallways that light up blue or green. And it doesn’t stop there — with more than 1,100 manual features to change like signs, endzone grass, and banners in the stadium and on the grounds outside, it takes almost two full eight-hour work days to finish the job. Even the souvenirs get the 50/50 treatment as the gift shop has movable walls and overhead lighting that switches allegiances at the push of a button.
Its carbon footprint is smaller than you’d think
Not only is the stadium the most expensive, it is also one of the greenest. The EPA has partnered with MetLife on a long-term plan that combines eco-friendly materials and practices into all aspects of operation. Even though MetLife is twice the size of the old Giants Stadium, it will use 30 percent less energy. From the huge ring of solar power panels around the stadium and aggressive recycling initiatives to low-flush toilets and seats made from post-consumer plastics, environmentally friendly features keep MetLife Stadium surprisingly sustainable. A year after it opened, a study found the stadium reduced its carbon footprint by sticking to the new guidelines. The impact was equivalent to the carbon dioxide emission from the energy use of 22,840 homes over one year. MetLife may have to up its environmental game if it wants to stay competitive, however, as the new Levi’s Stadium, future home to the San Francisco 49ers in Silicon Valley, which is opening for the start of the 2014 season, promises to be the first-ever LEED certified NFL stadium.
There’s not a bad seat in the house (really!)
Football games are fun no matter where you sit, but sometimes it can feel like you’re miles away from the field, even if you paid for premium tickets. While MetLife has more than 82,000 seats for NFL games (the second most in the league after FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.), even the tickets from the farthest corner of the stadium offer great views of the field. Of course you can’t beat close, and the front row seats at midfield are just 46 feet away from the field, the closest of any NFL stadium in the league. If you require niceties, the 10,000 club-level seats are posh as can be. There’s access to four lounges, chairs made from football leather, a perfect view of the field, and high-tech sound systems to capture all of the action. No matter your seat, the massive high-definition video screens measuring 30′ x 118′ in all four corners of the stadium let you recapture a moment you might have missed, and every single seat has a cup holder. It’s a football fan’s dream field.
The other football has a big presence here
Ah, The Beautiful Game. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or subway tunnel for the past few decades, you know that the New Jersey/New York metropolitan area is an incredibly diverse place. People from every corner of the globe call the area home, and that means that the “other football,” or soccer as we Americans call it, is hot-hot-hot. Since its opening in 2010, MetLife Stadium has been quick to tap into the local soccer passion by hosting a few international matches, also known as “friendlies.” Fans have packed the stadium to capacity to see soccer powerhouses such as Brazil and Argentina show off their majestic moves on field. In fact, the first high-level match in May 2010 between Mexico and Ecuador played here just a few weeks after the stadium opened. A raucous crowd of more than 77,000 packed the stadium to watch a game that ended in typical soccer fashion — 0-0.
The MetLife stadium debut goes to …
Was it the Jets or the Giants that opened the stadium with a flurry of fanfare and hype? Neither. It was a college lacrosse tournament featuring 10 of the nation’s best teams. The Big City Classic, an all-day affair with several matches played throughout the day, opened MetLife to fans on April 10, 2010. There was plenty of New York flavor on the lineup as two-time NCAA champions Syracuse, Cornell and Hofstra played for local pride. The tournament was such a huge success that the Big City Classic is now an annual event.
It’s the world’s highest grossing stadium
It’s likely not a surprise that MetLife, as the home of two NFL teams, brings in some serious dough, but it still might surprise you to learn that after only a few years in business, it is already the world’s highest grossing stadium. According to Billboard Magazine, MetLife Stadium received the No. 1 ranking in 2012. Bruce Springsteen’s record run of shows likely had something to do with that, as did its many concerts. (In concerts alone from November 2011 to November 2012, the stadium took in $46 million with a total attendance of 621,850 for 17 concerts.) In April 2013, Wrestlemania took the cake as the biggest money maker yet. The one-night event raked in an astounding $12 million as 80,676 fans packed the arena. And we’re not even counting the Super Bowl.
The New Jersey stadium pays homage to the state’s icons
What would a New Jersey stadium be without huge concerts by beloved musical icons Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band and Bon Jovi. Both played here within a few years of opening. The Boss took the stage for the first time in September 2012, but hair rock gods Bon Jovi beat Bruce to the punch with the first-ever concert on the brand new stage with a sold-out gig on May 26, 2010, and they’ve graced the stage multiple times since. Given all this NJ love, you’d think the Super Bowl halftime show might be a home-towner? Nope, pop heartthrob Bruno Mars, a Hawaii native, is scheduled to entertain the fans.
The entertainment goes way beyond sports and concerts
NFL Football, College Lacrosse, International Soccer and live concerts only scrape the surface of the events that happen at this gigantic stadium. Monster Jam truck rallies, college football, and even the World Wrestling Federation annual bash, Wrestlemania 29, drew huge numbers of fans in 2013. In fact, that event was the WWF’s most successful event ever, anywhere. Even culinary festivals like the Great American Food Festival have filled the stands. The biggest attendance for any event inside the stadium was Siyum HaShas, which took place on Aug. 1, 2012. The Jewish spiritual event celebrates those who have completed a seven-and-a-half-year course studying the Talmud. With several thousand seats selling out on the field as well as the stands, the capacity reached more than 93,000.