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.
- The centerpiece of the Super Bowl Boulevard is a big, stark reminder of what exactly we're all here for.
- The attractions take up nearly ten blocks of Broadway, right in the heart of Times Square. The rest of the city goes on around it, but for this week Broadway is Super Bowl Boulevard.
- Fox Sports' mascot, Cleatus, watches over the teeming crowds. And appears ready to engage anyone who crosses a shoddily constructed barrier.
- The Super Bowl pregame, halftime, and post-game shows will all take place in Times Square, and there's a full week of coverage leading up to the game as well.
- People waited in line for hours for the chance to kick an extra point — and a surprising number, including one woman in spiky high heels, nailed it straight down the middle.
- One of the longest lines in Times Square was to have your picture taken with the Lombardi trophy. Some people just cheated and took pictures from the outside.
- Times Square is full of photo ops, and full of adorable children walking wide-eyed through an incredible shrine to football.
- Nearly every company in Times Square is getting in the football spirit, hawking their products or just making weird helmets and taking pictures with tourists.
- Just in case we forgot how cold it is, the NFL brought in fake icicles and fake snow, and decorated Times Square like the winter wonderland that it very much already was.