A general view as stadium workers clean snow from the field and stands during the Super Bowl XLVIII stadium preparations press conference at MetLife Stadium. (USA TODAY Sports: Joe Camporeale)
Super Bowl XLVIII is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 2, but the NFL put contingency plans in place to play the game any time between Friday and Monday next weekend.
A storm of massive proportions would have to be in the forecast for the league to make those contingencies a reality.
“We are embracing the weather,” commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday. “Football is played in the elements.”
The current forecast for Super Bowl Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J. is for a high of 40 and 30 percent chance of rain or snow. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:25 p.m. ET.
If a major storm or severe temperatures impacts the region, the game could be played anywhere from Friday, Jan. 31 to Monday, Feb. 3. But the NFL said that’s a worst-case scenario with a low probability based on current weather models.
NFL officials are hoping fans embrace the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl in league history. They will receive ear muffs, hat, lip balm, mittens, cup holder, scarf, tissues, a radio to listen to the game, hand warmers, a seat cushion and a waist-wrap, quarterback-style hand pocket.
Those “comfort” items won’t go a long way toward ensuring safety, which Goodell and NFL officials are stressing is most important on their long list of logistical concerns. Wednesday, MetLife Stadium officials and more than 1,000 workers removed 13 inches of snow from the bowl seating area as an impromptu test run for the upcoming week.
“I think that the various events that we have are going off without a hitch and in fact have already begun because staging this stadium is an event in and of itself,” NFL vice president of operations Eric Grubman said. “We don’t have a crystal ball on weather, but we’re confident we’ll be able to have our events.”
New Jersey governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency on Tuesday. Grubman said a similar call Feb. 2 — restricting local travel and traffic that would be funneling from all directions toward MetLife Stadium starting early in the afternoon — would be a consideration for delaying or moving the game.
The 80,000 fans who will attend the game would be impacted in different ways. Fans and thousands of media credentialed to cover the event, including hundreds of international reporters, could face challenges adjusting travel and lodging schedules.
“Based on the long-range forecast, all that I would even hazard to guess is that it is probably going to be cold. I doubt we are going to have an unusual warm spell,” Grubman said.