The New York/New Jersey area will host its first Super Bowl, 2014 in East Rutherford, NJ
After Super Bowl XLVII ends Sunday night, Al Kelly, a former American Express executive from Harrison, N.Y., will have this going off in his head: Tick, tick, tick.
"As soon as the Lombardi Trophy is lifted, all eyes are on you," Kelly said. "Everyone will want to know: 'What kind of Super Bowl are you going to put on?' "
As CEO of the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee, Kelly has 12 months to solve all the riddles of a Super Bowl event staged on both sides of the Hudson River. Those problems -- tunnels and bridges that can clog with traffic in a minute, unreliable mass transportation, cold weather – are the reasons there has never been a Super Bowl in that metropolitan area.
The thought that it could snow on Super Bowl Sunday 2014 has some, such as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, giddy. Others, such as Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, is beside himself about a game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., home to the New York Giants and New York Jets.
Flacco, when asked about a Super Bowl in a stadium without a roof in a cold weather city, called the idea stupid.
Kelly said he didn't take it personally.
"The thing that hurts the most is that Flacco is a New Jersey guy," Kelly said. "You'd think he'd realize what a Super Bowl would mean to the area.
"There have been a lot of big events staged in the region, but the Super Bowl is really big. They have played Super Bowls for nearly five decades without ever coming to the biggest stage, so it's about time."
Goodell has his back. "Football was made to be played in the elements," Goodell said in his state of the NFL address Friday.
But before you get the idea that Kelly deals only in big concepts, such as moving a couple hundred thousand fans and media and VIPs back and forth from New Jersey to New York, or coordinating a full-time staff and thousands of volunteers, consider a key lesson he learned while in New Orleans this week.
While at one of the largest parties, Kelly tried to find a trash can to dispose of his paper plate. He couldn't, because there were only a handful at the party -- and they were covered in linen, so that they looked more like planters.
"Little things like that I notice," he said.
Kelly also crammed onto his notepad a suggestion someone offered: Wireless internet and more outlets at the hotels hosting the interview sessions.
But there are the big issues. Kelly, figuring the host committee will need about $60 million to stage the Super Bowl, must raise the dough. He earned the job -- hired by Giants owners John Mara and Bob Tisch and Jets owner Woody Johnson -- not because of his background in sports but because of a résumé that included stints with Pepsi, American Express and the White House.
Fans see the Super Bowl as a football game, but "it's also a business," Kelly said. "A big business."
The NFL selects the events and locations for all of its events, but someone must make it work, and that someone is Kelly -- plus a staff of 28 and an army of 15,000 volunteers.
Super Bowl XLVIII will present challenges never encountered. Last year, for instance, a Super Bowl in Indianapolis was confined to a small downtown area. This year, in New Orleans, everything is within walking distance. Not so, in New Jersey and New York.
And that means buses and shuttles and express lanes on the highways.
"We're going to make geography a non-issue," Kelly said. "We're going to make it so people don't have to worry about driving or drinking or the snow. We'll get them places."
He has a year to figure it all out.