Only 282 days until Super Bowl XLVIII.
As of this writing, anyway.
Which means there is not a moment to lose. Not if you are Morris County’ tourism director.
Leslie Bensley describes herself as cheerleader for the county, but quarterback was more like it as she darted among some 30 area officials and business leaders at the Hyatt Morristown on Friday.
They were preparing their game plan for the Super Bowl that is coming to MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, 2014.
Although the visiting team is slated to practice in Florham Park at the New York Jets training center, practices will be closed to the public and both teams will stay in Jersey City.
Even so, Leslie anticipates all 6,000 hotel rooms in Morris County will be booked with guests attracted by America’s premier sporting event.
As many as 400,000 people–five times the capacity of MetLife Stadium–could flock to New York and New Jersey to soak up the excitement, pumping $550 million into local economies, tourism officials estimate. As the first Super Bowl outdoors at a cold-weather venue, it’s a colossal experiment.
“If we do well in our region, the hope is that this will be repeated,” said Leslie, who already has spent a year gearing up, including a visit to the last Super Bowl in New Orleans.
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Morris County has been designated as one of five New Jersey “huddle” zones for Super Bowl XLVIII events. The Meadowlands, Jersey City, Newark and the remainder of the Garden State round out the list.
The Morris County Tourism Bureau and its members are keen on showcasing the area’s Revolutionary War history–the bureau’s website boasts George Washington clutching a football on the Morristown Green–while offering modern pastimes like pub crawls and restaurant weeks.
A sweepstakes also may award local prize packages to people who correctly predict both Super Bowl teams.
“People have myriad assumptions about New Jersey. This is our chance to show them how New Jersey really is,” said Cory Baum, sales and marketing director for the Hyatt Morristown, and a member of the tourism bureau’s board.
The tourism bureau is planning a special tourism guide and an advertorial newspaper for distribution to hotels and town halls for Super Bowl week.
During this fall’s Morristown Festival on the Green, an artist will sculpt an enormous football of sand in the park next to the Grand Café.
Leslie said hers is mostly a rah-rah role.
“We want to empower people to create events, and we will market them,” she said. “We have an opportunity, and we’re going to try and leverage it.”
Anyone seeking to capitalize on the Super Bowl faces super challenges, however. The Super Bowl name is trademarked and logos cannot be used without permission–which costs big bucks. And tickets to the game will be virtually impossible to cadge, Leslie said.
“If the NFL could make tickets available, it could have some efficacy,” perhaps to raise money for local charities, said Morris Township Mayor Peter Mancuso.
Representatives of the Morristown Partnership; the Mayo Performing Arts Center; the Morris County Chamber of Commerce; County College of Morris; TransOptions; the Running Company (which hosts a Morristown road race on Super Sunday); several hotels; and officials from Morris County, Madison, and Florham Park were among Friday’s attendees.
The spirit of teamwork was evidenced by Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty and attorney Alan Zakin, who posed together for a photo after being courtroom adversaries a day earlier.
That case involved an election dispute; Mary is Morristown’s Democratic chairwoman and her side prevailed in getting a candidate on the primary ballot.
“We want to promote Morris County as much as possible,” said Alan, whose other hat is in public relations, with Alan Zakin Associates in Florham Park.
“We’re brainstorming now to find the best way to do that.”
“We’re at the beginning stages,” said Mary, who on Friday was representing her husband, Mayor Tim Dougherty. “Morristown is such a destination spot. We feel we will be a big part of it.”