EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Vince Lombardi Trophy will be awarded in just under three months' time, but the competition has already begun in earnest for a more lucrative prize.
A slice of the estimated half-billion dollars in economic activity expected to visit the greater New York area in and around the Super Bowl.
In addition to making history as the first Super Bowl to be held outdoors in a cold-weather locale, the game has revived some of the mostly-friendly rivalry between perennial underdog New Jersey, where the game actually will be played Feb. 2, and the large city to the east that usually manages to steal the spotlight.
New York will be the site of the most extravagant Super Bowl-related spectacle, a theme park — along closed-off Broadway and Times Square — that will feature a toboggan slide, merchandise shop and concert venue. Across the Hudson River, New Jersey towns within a short drive of MetLife Stadium recognize they'll have to work a little harder to get noticed, and some are getting creative in their approaches.
Hackensack is planning to build a snow-tubing hill in its downtown. Montclair and Secaucus are planning carnival-like experiences featuring food, live music and games. In Hoboken, hipsters will be able to try their skill at curling at a lane set up by the waterfront.
Underlying it all is a dose of New Jersey attitude.
"So many people perceive that all the activities are happening in New York," said Ron Simoncini, a marketing expert who is working with several New Jersey towns to procure sponsors for Super Bowl-related activities. "But we've seen from previous Super Bowls that people in far greater numbers than have tickets come to the area. I think East Rutherford and Secaucus will have more people than Times Square on the day of the game."
Competing with New York is only one of the hurdles facing New Jersey towns. There's the weather, which could range from balmy to teeth-rattling cold. Temperatures last year were in the 20s on Feb. 2, though they reached 40 and 46 degrees in the previous two years.
In addition, some local officials were miffed when they discovered they couldn't use the words "Super Bowl" or any other phrase or logo that might imply they were officially sanctioned by the NFL. Others anticipated a degree of financial support or sponsorship connections through the league or the official host committee and were disappointed.
"We've come to realize that we're kind of on our own in this," Montclair councilman Rich McMahon said. "It's an ironic thing, they encourage us to throw, in essence, a huge Super Bowl party, and they don't allow us to use the words. We have had to make it essentially a 'Montclair-winter-festival-that-happens-to-coincide-with-that-big-game-whose-name-we-can't-tell-you' event."
The NFL has a policy of not allowing third parties to "draft" off the excitement and visibility of the Super Bowl, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
"That's commonplace, and we've never had issues in the past with towns, we've never taken legal action against any town that I'm aware of," he said. "We encourage people to come together at Super Bowl time.
"We just want to make sure they know we protect our marks and logos."
With money from sponsors uncertain, Montclair has scaled back its original concept but still plans to throw a party involving live music, food and other attractions, McMahon said.
Other towns are aggressively seeking sponsors to avoid using taxpayer dollars. Secaucus, which sits practically in the shadows of MetLife Stadium and could host thousands of hotel guests, is planning to erect a large, heated tent for karaoke, live music, dining and other activities. And it plans to offer ice sculptures, laser tag and slides at a local park. Mayor Michael Gonnelli said the town also will host a "Super Ball" black-tie event that he hopes will include an auction for two Super Bowl tickets.
Scott Katz, head of Hoboken's events committee, tapped into his experience directing Olympic curling for NBC to come up with the idea of building a curling lane that will stay up through the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The city also is planning to construct a giant cauldron, in Katz's words, featuring the Roman numerals XLVIII that will have the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. A football-shaped ice rink near the Hudson River also is in consideration.
All the hoopla often obscures the fact that economic impact estimates are inexact and often overly optimistic, many sports economists say. For example, Glendale, Ariz., spent about $2 million more than it reaped in sales taxes when it hosted the 2008 Super Bowl, according to a widely-reported study by the city.
"I could see some municipalities actually losing money trying to make money," Temple University sports economist Joel Maxcy said. "But it's likely that there's some promotional value there that may pay off in the long run, though it's often difficult to quantify that."
Some municipalities are taking a different approach. In Jersey City, across the Hudson from lower Manhattan, Mayor Steven Fulop has eschewed any grandiose plans and instead noted that with both teams staying in hotels in his city, there will be a built-in draw for many fans.
He is partial to a certain type of fan, however.
"If it can't be the Giants, I'm cheering for the teams that come from cold-weather environments," he said. "I want a team from the Midwest whose fans are used to the cold so they don't mind hanging out outside. Steeler fans would be terrific; the same with Green Bay."