Super Bowl in a Super City

A Super celebration lets the New York area show off its event offerings.

My Super Bowl MVP

Five days before the big game, excitement permeated the air at Super Bowl Boulevard. After an exhilarating toboggan run, a glimpse of the glass-encased Lombardi trophy, and the spotting of a few NFL players, I capped things off with a media reception at the New York Sheraton hosted by the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.

After hours in the frigid cold, the roaring fireplace in the sophisticated Library Bar was welcoming. I draped my jacket over a leather sofa situated in front of a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking Seventh Avenue, and chatted with a host of the event. Suddenly, we were interrupted by a young man running over at full sprint and forcibly leaning over to grab a jacket and toss it on the Persian rug. He screamed, “fire!” while stomping on it repeatedly.

In the few seconds it took to realize the thoroughly ruined jacket belonged to me, I also saw the flickering candles adorning a sofa-back table, unseen because of the table’s position.

The man was 30-year-old Jairo Arcila, who had just finished a workout in the gym after his shift in the housekeeping department and was headed to the subway when he spotted the flaming jacket through the hotel window. He sprinted from Seventh Avenue, displaying the athletic prowess more typically seen on a football field.

“I saw the jacket catch on fire and was stunned for a second. I thought I could knock on the glass window or tell the police but decided to run inside,” he says. “God put me in the right place at the right time. That whole area is wood and could have gone up in flames.”

My hero that evening wasn’t one of the gridiron greats being celebrated, but a Starwood employee on his way home from work.

The New York area wowed when it hosted Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2. The stakes were high, and the world’s greatest stage didn’t disappoint.

“The NY/NJ Super Bowl was an overwhelming success. It was fully embraced at every level by local residents, fans, visitors, sponsors, and the NFL itself,” says Jonathan Tisch, cochair of the Super Bowl Host Committee and chairman of Loews Hotels and Resorts. “We set out to make history — the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather city and the first time that two states and two teams hosted the game. The record television viewership and enthusiastic participation in Super Bowl activities reflects the strong interest in the unique Super Bowl experience of New York and New Jersey. We were proud to host the world’s greatest game in the world’s largest market, and it would be an honor to welcome everyone back.”

The game was played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, but the events surrounding the game were split between both New Jersey and New York. “The events throughout the week — from the kick-off concert and fireworks at Liberty State Park in New Jersey to Super Bowl Boulevard and the Toboggan Run in Times Square — captured the spirit and energy of the region,” adds Tisch.

Super Bowl Boulevard transformed a portion of Broadway in midtown Manhattan into a massive fan event. It began on 44th Street, in the middle of Times Square, and stretched down Broadway to 34th Street from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1.

Another highlight of the Super Bowl celebrations were the VIP concerts held at the Bud Light Hotel New York. Bud Light transformed Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Norwegian Getaway. The vessel was docked at Pier 88 and accommodated 4,000 guests in 1,900 staterooms. Bud Light Hotel expanded beyond the ship, taking over the entire Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, including the deck of the retired military ship and its pier.

The Super Bowl Media Center was at the newly renovated 1,781-room Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. Media outlets from across the globe converged on the hotel and occupied all 60,000 square feet of meeting space as well as the 14,257-square-foot Metropolitan Ballroom where “Radio Row” was located. During the time leading up to the Super Bowl, there were 104 radio stations broadcasting live from the ballroom, hour after hour, all over the world.

“Not only were there football players coming and going but celebrities as well,” says Jesse Suglia, director of sales and marketing for the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. “The Super Bowl is not just a football event; it’s a worldwide event.”

Hotels throughout the metropolitan area got into the spirit. Sofitel New York, for example, created a $100,000 Ultimate Super Bowl Experience for 20 that included tickets to the big game, transportation, three nights of overnight accommodations in 10 luxury suites, and breakfast daily at Gaby Brasserie Française. The 398room Sofitel, a stylish Midtown property with a decidedly French flavor, has 6,700 square feet of private function space that can service groups.

The Roosevelt Hotel’s street-level lunch spot, Vander Bar, threw a “Mourning After” party on the Monday after the Super Bowl, which only welcomed fans of the Denver Broncos, the losing team. “Mourning After” specials consisted of percentage discounts in the amount by which Denver lost — because of a 35-point differential, Broncos fans received 35 percent discounts on their tabs.

More Popular Than Ever

New York City’s popularity continues to break records as the city welcomed 54.3 million visitors in 2013 — a new all-time high. By the end of 2013, visitors to the city generated $58.7 billion in overall economic impact and $39.4 billion in direct spending. By the end of 2014, New York City is on course to have 100,000 hotel rooms, another huge milestone.

The tallest newly built, freestanding Hyatt hotel in the U.S., Hyatt Times Square New York, opened to guests on Dec. 3, 2013. The 487-room property features a total of 8,000 square feet of flexible function space, including a 2,000-square-foot meeting center with pre-function areas and three adjacent rooms, each with a terrace and natural light as well as state-of-the-art A/V facilities. New York City’s highest rooftop lounge, Bar 54, on the 54th floor is a 122-seat indoor/outdoor lounge that opened in February. The hotel also offers the T-45 Diner.

New York’s Loews Regency Hotel has reopened in Midtown Manhattan. Closed since Jan. 1, 2013, the 379-room hotel has undergone a $100-million renovation encompassing its guest rooms, meeting space, and amenities. New offerings include refreshed accommodations; a redesigned lobby; a new signature restaurant; four new private meeting spaces; and a new 10,000-square-foot salon, spa, and fitness center, which opens this month.

Marriott opened North America’s tallest single-use hotel in January, a combined 378room Courtyard hotel and 261-suite Residence Inn. The $320-million complex is located at 1717 Broadway and the hotels share 6,000 square feet of meeting space. The nation’s largest Hilton Garden Inn opened right next door with 401 rooms. A Park Hyatt New York is slated to open this summer as well.

Rising 16 stories along the Hudson River waterfront, Conrad New York, a 463-all-suite luxury hotel, is the first New York address from Conrad Hotels & Resorts, the global luxury brand of Hilton Worldwide. The Conrad New York has more than 30,000 square feet of flexible space.

Post-Sandy Recovery

The ultimate NYC icon — the Statue of Liberty — reopened to the public on July 4, 2013, after being closed since Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in late October 2012. Liberty Island and the National Monument are accessible via Statue Cruises taking off from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Ellis Island Immigration Museum, also damaged by the hurricane, reopened to the public last October. Visitors can once again walk the halls of the immigration station where 12 million people began life in America.

The Manhattan Center, home of the iconic Grand and Hammerstein Ballrooms and New York’s celebrated destination for extraordinary performances and special events, welcomes 2014 with a fresh executive team to reposition the studios in the corporate and social structure.

Getting Around the City

New York may be famous for its yellow cabs, but the city is becoming ever more bike-friendly, and an increasing number of corporate groups are taking advantage of this. In the summer of 2013, the city unveiled the Citi Bike bicycle-sharing program, offering 6,000 bikes for rent throughout the city, a half-hour at a time. “New York had a stigma attached to it that you couldn’t ride a bike here, but that’s not the case. There is the West Side Bike path, Central Park, and Highbridge Park,” explains Chris Wogas, president of Bike and Roll NYC. “Groups can ride bikes in Manhattan without actually interacting with cars, which was the biggest deterrent in the past.” Bike and Roll has more than 2,000 bikes available for individual rentals or guided tours.

Bike New York, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, whose mission is to facilitate and promote cycling in all five boroughs of New York City through education and public events, offers individuals as well as groups learn-to-ride, safety, and bike education programs.

Another way to get your group outdoors is sailing on one of New York City’s many vessels. Hornblower Cruises & Event’s New York port has a meetings-friendly fleet that includes the 1,200-person Hornblower Infinity with six unique meeting spaces, and the 600-person eco-friendly Hornblower Hybrid. The 500-person John J. Audubon and 450-person Serenity are also available.

Another group-friendly feature is the New York Pass, a smartcard that allows cash-free entry to more than 80 New York tourist attractions along with discounts at select retailers, restaurants, and Broadway shows. The pass also includes VIP access and fast-track privileges for select locations. Every New York Pass comes with a free 176-page guidebook that includes detailed maps, hours of operation, tips, and directions to every New York Pass attraction. The guidebooks are available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch, and Portuguese. They are popular turndown gifts for those attendees with free time on their itineraries or who are planning to spend a few days in New York City after the meeting is over. There are multiple-day passes available. The pass is also ideal for spouse programs.