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N.J. Super Bowl team was planning for blackouts ahead of New Orleans power loss

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They traveled to New Orleans for lessons on how to do things right when hosting the Super Bowl, but many New Jersey business leaders and government officials also got a major glimpse of just what could go wrong.

With the second half barely under way, a power failure caused much of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to go dark. The outage caused a 34-minute delay, creating a scenario that will undoubtedly be top of mind for those involved with next year's game at MetLife Stadium.

But ensuring the strength of the region's power grid has long been a key focus for planners of the 2014 Super Bowl. Last year, the state Sports & Exposition Authority approved a project to add a third feeder line between the Meadowlands Sports Complex and the nearby Public Service Electric & Gas substation, enhancing reliability ahead of events like the cold-weather game on Feb. 2. The project is expected to take place in the coming months.

Meanwhile, MetLife Stadium CEO Brad Mayne said last week that his team has been meeting with the utility operator and its other regular partners. He said the stadium has always prepared for worst-case scenarios, but on the national stage, it's important to "have contingency plans of what you're going to do and how you're going to address it."

"We've got those partnerships and we live with them with every event that comes our way," Mayne said. But "when you're going to have 30 million-plus viewers watching what's taking place … you just want to make sure you've crossed all of the t's and dotted all of the i's appropriately, so that we'll be prepared and ready for anything that takes place."

Still, any lessons learned by New Jersey stakeholders go well beyond Sunday's power failure. Michael Davidson, executive director of the Greater Newark Convention & Visitors Bureau, said a key takeaway was how widespread, visible and active host committee volunteers were as they interacted with visitors.

But he also noted that in New Orleans, "there were natural places for concentrations of people," such as the French Quarter or the network broadcast hubs. It may not be so simple with a two-state Super Bowl, he said, so it will be crucial to have volunteers at all of the many transportation hubs in the region.

"When you arrived in New Orleans at Louis Armstrong International Airport, you knew the Super Bowl was happening," Davidson said. "At every point where people are going to enter, we need to let them know that they're here for the Super Bowl and that we're happy they're here … I think that's going to be the biggest challenge for us."

The state's network of tourism leaders plan to compare notes in the coming weeks, especially about how to capitalize on large gatherings such as Media Day, on Jan. 28 at Newark's Prudential Center, he said. But his team is also planning local efforts for the event, such as public art projects in the Brick City and an upcoming social media and video campaign to showcase assets like its restaurants, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the New York Red Bulls soccer club, based in nearby Harrison.

"It's all around the Super Bowl," Davidson said. "A lot of people are thinking of ideas."

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Joshua Burd

Joshua Burd

Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is joshb@njbiz.com and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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