Record crowds pack trains ahead of Super Bowl
Record throngs of train transit riders packed a key transfer station Sunday on the way to Super Bowl 48 as crowds arrived to watch the Denver Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks.
More than 79,000 spectators were set to fill the $1.7 billion MetLife Stadium, the regular-season home of the New York Jets and New York Giants, for the National Football League title game.
New Jersey Transit reported a record 27,000 people, more than double the number expected and breaking the record 22,000 for a 2009 U2 concert, had taken the Super Bowl train shuttle to the stadium with kickoff more than two hours away.
Early arriving crowds in the Secaucus train station, where mass transit customers switched to the special Super Bowl trains, created an early backlog as fans began showing up three hours before the first trains were departing to the stadium, where security gates opened only four-and-a-half hours before kickoff.
That led to reports that some people had collapsed while waiting for trains.
"There have been no confirmed reports of fans passing out in the station," New Jersey Transit said in a Twitter posting.
Transit officials sought to ease the fears of people concerned about trains when they leave the stadium, saying three trains will be in the stadium station at all times, ones loading and leaving being replaced by others until everyone departs.
Those making their way to the stadium were greeted by cloudy skies at the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather city.
But fears of a blizzard or bitter cold did not come to pass. Temperatures near 44 degrees (6.6 Celsius) were expected for the evening kickoff and the game was expected to end before they fall to the level of the coldest-ever Super Bowl from 1972, an unusually chilly 39 degrees (3.8 C) in New Orleans.
Both teams began working out about an hour before the start, players conducting stretching exercises on their team's half of the field.
They departed for the locker rooms ahead of performances by Syracuse and Rutgers college marching bands, America the Beautiful sung by Queen Latifah and returned ahead of the US national anthem sung by Renee Fleming, the first opera singer to perform it at a Super Bowl.
Orange-clad Broncos supporters and Seattle's "12th Man", the notoriously loud fans from across the country wearing blue and green, were chanting cheers and serving notice early they would be screaming for their teams well into the night.
Every seat was adorned with a cushion that included a special cap for the half-time show and warmers that activate with a hard impact to provide thermal relief for cold spectators.
While there were 11,000 parking places sold for the game, security and television equipment took up much of the usual space around the stadium, making mass transit trains and buses crucial.
Fans getting on the trains were required to have a Super Bowl ticket and comply with the NFL's bag policy in order to ease security delays at one of the major top-level US security events of every year.
Tall pillars with video screens and loudspeakers were in place to entertain fans as they waited, using music and highlights from the Broncos and Seahawks as well as provide facts about the game, such as this being the least popular US wedding weekend and more than 1.5 million televisions being sold in America in the week before the big game.
Warming stations found little interest thanks to moderate conditions, but such fan fun areas as an American football-themed obstacle course and a giant gridiron video game attracted long lines.
A walking vendor with $20 souvenir cups of hot chocolate in the shape of American footballs found few takers.
But lines were 20-people deep in food areas offering beer and delicacies such as $18 foot-long hot dogs and $20 souvenir noodle bowls.