At 40th Street, the toboggan run is 60 feet tall and 180 feet long, topped with a gloriously huge NFL logo and shuttling down eight people at a time. To get in, you have to buy a ticket — a $5 strip of paper that looks eerily like the $25,000 pieces of paper they sell at the next machine over, the ones that actually get you into the Super Bowl. At the bottom of the toboggan run, there’s a pair of field goal uprights with fake icicles and a breeze of snowflakes. They aren’t real snowflakes. They’re soap suds, blown over by a pair of rotary machines clamped on a scaffolding a few feet to the right.
This is Super Bowl Boulevard, a 13-block stretch of Broadway that's been taken over by the NFL in honor of Sunday's game. The game itself will take place across the river in East Rutherford, New Jersey, miles and possibly hours away — but as far as the NFL is concerned, the Super Bowl is right here. There are booths from Pepsi, GMC, Bridgestone: anyone you’re likely to see running a Super Bowl ad. Temporary street signs point you to the ticket lines, autograph tents, or performance stages. It’s a fully realized facade of a city within Times Square, which some will tell you is already a facade of a city within New York.
There are lines everywhere on Super Bowl Boulevard — lines for free food, lines for free games. A worker said he’d seen a fight in the line for the toboggan run, although there are so many cops around, it’s hard to believe it could have lasted very long. Later in the night, the line stretched around the block for Pep City, the Pepsi-owned pop-up nightclub in a geodesic dome behind the library in Bryant Park. A woman at the front told me she had been waiting for an hour and 45 minutes. She seemed completely unfazed by that fact, as if she were telling me the price of a cup of coffee.
If you want to pay for a plastic-covered nightclub in central Manhattan, there will be a place to put it
This is the advantage of hosting a Super Bowl in (or near) New York, despite the cold and the already packed highways. If you want to pay for a plastic-covered nightclub in central Manhattan, there will be a place to put it, and there will be hundreds of people willing to wait outside to get in. If you set up a glass tent where people can look at the Vince Lombardi trophy, more than 25,000 people will visit in a single day, waiting in line outside for hours.
Super Bowl Boulevard is a DisneyLand that comes to you
Times Square was very deliberately built for this. It’s been gradually turning into a pedestrian plaza since 2009, with the final shift coming this past December. After the last modification, Broadway is permanently blocked off for five blocks north of 42nd Street. That means a massive event like Super Bowl Boulevard can drop in without actually disrupting that much. It’s just a bigger, brighter Times Square. And while it’s happening, city workers get overtime, nearby businesses get new customers, and the city gets a slice of everything. It’s a setup Mayor Bloomberg was very careful to cultivate, and one the city will be carrying forward for decades.
Still, it can’t help but feel a little strange for the city itself. While Super Bowl Boulevard has taken over the street, the rest of the city has barely noticed. People are still working in the buildings around it, including The Verge offices. The Boulevard is like Disneyland, but it’s a Disneyland that comes to you, a life-size Mickey Mouse that appears without warning in the middle of your living room, complete with a bombastic corporate sponsorship. For New Yorkers, especially those not making it out to East Rutherford, this is what the Super Bowl looks like.
Photography by David Pierce. Video by Zach Goldstein, Billy Disney, and John Lagomarsino.