The Fan Experience at Super Bowl City

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by Jessica Kleinschmidt Feb 08 3:25pm
San Francisco, Calif. — A typical flash of my media pass would have made this situation go by quicker, but this time around I was a fan. A face in the crowd who simply wanted to experience the different elements of Super Bowl City and the NFL Experience at the Justin Herman Plaza at Embarcadero.

The line itself to get into Super Bowl City mirrored the TSA line you have to moan and groan about while strangers go through your personal items at the airport. A few of the employees monitoring the lines started a minuscule disagreement with one another. I awkwardly stood there without my purse for a few moments, which as a woman made me feel uncomfortable. They eventually relaxed the tones of their voices, but that wasn’t before I was waved down by a security wand. Once we concluded the metal piece in my boots was what set the machine off, I shuffled around several officers sporting guns you only see in Michael Bay movies.

My tour guide was my closest friend. She was raised in the Bay Area and had already been down to Super Bowl City a couple days prior. She pointed left at the overpriced beer and instructed me to be careful where I was walking. There was a huge crowd of people who were there to experience the very same thing.

Our first stop was the media section. I noticed NFL Network to my right and CBS Sports in front of me. I quickly stuck my head into one of the tents to see if I spotted any colleagues that told me they would be there. While it wasn’t successful, I wasn’t too disappointed considering there were a few dozen things I could distract myself with. A member from security began to approach me and I began to look for the access pass I was used to, then quickly reminded myself it was a useless search.

A section that the kid’s were obsessed with, or the inner-child in all of us in this case, was one of the stops we first set our eyes upon. Someone dismounted the zip line that was strung above us. It was stickered with CBS Sports logos and a jumbotron that showed Roger Goodell handing the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award to Anquan Boldin. I stopped to watch the award ceremony for a small amount of time, which meant I was in everyone’s way. Again, those Super Bowl crowds are no joke.

We walked away to our first actual sit-down spot, a wine bar where we asked a woman who was sporting a Cam Newton jersey if she could take our picture. She was happy to do so and began to make small talk by asking where we were from. A Bay Area local, she told us she had ties to the south and she wanted to make sure she let us know that was the reasoning behind her and her family’s jerseys.

“We’ve been practicing our dabbing,” she smiles.

She went back to entertaining her family where there happened to be a man wearing an orange, Dan Marino jersey. That didn’t seem odd considering a man dressed as a San Francisco 49ers pope was walking around blessing the different crowds.

We made our way down towards the stage where old school love songs (that you and I both know the words to) were belted out by a local band. A friend of mine is a producer for KNBR (a Bay Area sports station) and their setup was on top of a bar across from the stage that was built for the occasion. He greeted me and I asked where my favorite host was since I didn’t see him.

“They wanted a former 49ers player, not him,” he explains to me.

I suppose that’s how this industry works.

More walking ensued and I realized fans will stand in lines for hours upon hours for a picture with an inanimate object. There was a line the length of a football field to take a picture with a “Super Bowl 50” sign and a similar length to experience a “two-minute drill” where I assume you would throw a football through an opening and get a small prize at the conclusion. We redundantly began to say “oh look, another line!”

We took a lunch break before we headed inside to the NFL Experience where we once again had to have our bags checked. We forgot about the adorable Girl Scouts who talked us into purchasing two boxes of Savannah Smiles, which were immediately confiscated as we walked in.

Greeting us were over-sized helmets that only Peyton Manning himself could fit into. We did the touristy thing and took pictures next to our favorite team’s helmets and began to walk inside the big double doors where every piece of NFL history you could imagine surrounded us. Before we walked down memory lane, we took the escalators down toward the flashing lights. As we walked into what seemed like one of the biggest arcades I have ever seen, it was difficult to take it all in.

There were lockers staged with one player representing just about every team, set up as if it were prior to game time with jerseys, sweats and undergarments complete with Gatorade protein bars and Old Spice body wash. In the same room, footage of everything and anything NFL related was on constant play where fans sat and watched from benches.

There were many booths surrounding the central “quarters” of the NFL Experience where autograph sessions took place and if Nick Foles didn’t have a sign near his autograph table, I would have had no idea it was even him. Matt Ryan and others were scheduled to sit on the giant autograph stage and sign their names on any memorabilia you paid for.

There was a variety of different stations for those who had children to participate in NFL Play 60. I wasn’t wearing the proper attire, or else I would have given my go at a physical station that resembled a Physical Fitness Test for a Presidential patch in elementary school. There was also a huge line for that, which I couldn’t convince myself to stand in.

The history aspect of it was interesting, though. The statues of the most recent Football Hall of Fame inductees were displayed directly in the middle of the room and everything from a Ray Lewis jersey and historical football flags stood behind glass cases that were covered in finger smudges from eager fans who had been there throughout the week.

The fan experience was honestly mediocre. I heard individuals complaining about Super Bowl City shutting down early due to the overwhelming crowds and it seemed if you weren’t waiting in line for anything, you couldn’t experience much besides frustration.

Still, the sports history fiend in me appreciated the displays most of us forget about when we are sitting behind a computer screen typing like a mad man (or woman). You see a different aspect from that side of it, which I enjoyed.

San Francisco is more than happy to have its city back now that the tear down has commenced. If I had a dollar for every local I heard say “thanks a lot, Super Bowl,” in frustration, I would be able to make Goodell’s wallet blush.


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