It was a Super Bowl with an unprecedented focus on planning for the weather, even if Mother Nature was nowhere to be found at Sunday night's kickoff at MetLife Stadium.
But Wayne Hasenbalg still isn't taking anything for granted, especially since a snowstorm began to blanket the region just hours after the Seattle Seahawks hoisted the Vince Lombardi trophy.
"There's no question that we caught a break," Hasenbalg, president and CEO of the state Sports & Exposition Authority, said Monday morning. "We were ready, but it certainly made it a lot of easier yesterday. It was more like a late fall kind of football game."
Such a feeling was part of the postscript for an event that had many complex logistical challenges as the first cold-weather, outdoor Super Bowl — one that also spanned two states, relied on mass transit and required a vast web of security. For the planners who dealt with those challenges, it seems all their boxes were checked aside from the overcrowding and long delays train riders faced going to and from the game.
"For the most part, I'm really appreciative and proud for how the state government came together and delivered the services," said Hasenbalg, whose agency took the lead in marshaling state resources for the event. "It was a monumental undertaking."
Hasenbalg said some 35 percent of attendees at MetLife Stadium took the train through Secaucus Junction, where the delays were reported before the game. Ridership was higher than expected, he said, and he noted that security and ticket checks had to be done before boarding, so "I think NJ Transit did as well as you could with those kinds of numbers."
Published reports also said that after the game, fans waited for hours to leave the Meadowlands Sports Complex, as NJ Transit reported having to transport three times as many fans as it does during a typical NFL game. Charter buses were brought in around midnight to help eat away at lines that finally disappeared around 1 a.m. Monday.
It was the only noticeable flaw in the evening.
It's too soon to tell if and when New Jersey and New York will host another Super Bowl, but that hasn't stopped people from talking about it already
. The owners of the New York Giants and public officials have said they want the event back, even though the next four locations are all but set and other cold-weather cities will now want to be considered.
In the meantime, Hasenbalg said organizers of this year's event will do a post-game assessment in the near term.
"We're going to get everybody together and do a debriefing, and use it as a tool to not only assess how we did for Super Bowl, but to plan for the future," he said. He added, you could always improve what you've done," but the state has a good foundation in place with its model of working groups after hosting big events such as the Super Bowl and Wrestlemania
As for the mild, clear weather Sunday, he noted that "we all hoped for it, but none of us ever expected that."