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NEW YORK (AP) - Instead of shrinking from the possibility that this season's biggest football game could be played in a blizzard, organizers of the first outdoor, cold-climate Super Bowl have decided to embrace the snow as the game's unofficial theme.
In fact, some officials are positively hoping for snow.
"It would be disappointing if it didn't, quite frankly," said Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman. "Weather and the elements are part of the game. And we are embracing it."
That could be cold comfort to the throngs of visitors to the New York City area for Super Bowl week, and to the 78,000 fans who will actually brave the elements during the Feb. 2 game at open-air MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The 197-year-old Farmers' Almanac is already out with its forecast that a big winter storm will hit the area that weekend, though how much stock to put in that theory is debatable.
"It could mean windy. It could mean snow. We're not sure, obviously, what Mother Nature will throw our way." said Al Kelly, head of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, an organization with a snowflake in its logo and the tongue-in-cheek tagline: "Join the world's biggest huddle."
From the beginning, the committee decided to embrace the prospect of cold and snowy weather. To help fans stay warm, each game ticket holder will receive a "warm welcome" package containing earmuffs, tissues, lip balm and hand warmers. Several pavilions designated as "warming spots" will also be stationed outside the stadium.
To drive home the wintry theme, a 60-foot high toboggan run will be set up in Manhattan on "Super Bowl Boulevard," a 14-block outdoor celebration of all things football-related, centered around Times Square.
Fans will be able to wait in line and pay $5 to slide down the toboggan run on a mat. In the NFL's mock rendering of the boulevard, the toboggan run is covered in snow.
Organizers expect more than a million people to visit the boulevard, which will also feature giant versions of the Super Bowl roman numerals, an outdoor concert stage, an autograph stage containing the Vince Lombardi Trophy and broadcast sets for all of the major television networks.
The timing of the game in early February is ideal for generating tourism dollars, as January and February are traditionally the slowest tourism months in New York City, said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. And the surrounding bars and eating establishments are hoping to profit in a major way from people seeking refuge from the weather.
"If people are looking for warming stations, we're not building them," McCarthy said. "But you do have about 150 restaurants and shops right there."
At Marriott Courtyard hotels, the NFL's official Super Bowl hotel brand, guests will be served hot chocolate in Super Bowl-branded mugs when they check in at the front desk. The hotel chain is also considering handling out warm-weather gear like scarves or mittens.
"We're saying, `Come to Courtyard if you want to get warm,'" said Janis Milham, a senior vice president at Marriott.
Cold-weather games are really nothing new for the NFL. And if it does snow, organizers will be ready for it. Both states are prepared to put their full arsenal of plows and salt trucks to make sure that roads are clear and safe.
"You know New York City, you know Broadway," Tompkins said. "The show must go on."
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