I may be mayor of a host community for Super Bowl XLVIII, but there's no question about it, I'm no football expert. But I do know a smoke and mirrors deal when I see one, as has been the case with Super Bowl XLVIII here in New Jersey. I can't tell an Archie from a Peyton from an Eli, but as I walk through the center of our town I can clearly see MetLife Stadium and how it has become the center of the universe of late. That view is about as much a benefit as most people in northern New Jersey are going to get.
Hundreds of man-hours are being utilized from the volunteer fire departments and First Aid squads from the municipalities surrounding the stadium. As of yet unknown overtime costs are being borne by these municipalities that will then be passed on to local taxpayers. The lives and travels of hundreds of thousands are being disrupted by the spectacle. So, what's the return for everyone?
Well, in the words of one NFL executive who met with local leaders when planning initially began, "You should be proud that the Super Bowl will be played here." He said it with a straight face too. I guess that is easy to do when you work for one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world that is the National Football League. It's a nice designation if you can get it, but the reality here is that the 14 municipalities that make up the Meadowlands are not charitable organizations, and we have to live with the financial consequences during and after the big game.
For the 80,000 fans who attend the game and the tens of thousands of support staff and volunteers who are part of the event planning, the fact is none of them will even know that at some point they were in Carlstadt, or East Rutherford or Secaucus. Two days before the Super Bowl there has been hardly an uptick in traffic to local businesses in our area due to the overwhelming security presence and the tight controls on transportation into the stadium. Sadly, this was a gimmick.
As an elected official I know the value of bringing big business into your community. It's good for the economy and it's good for politics. The problem is big business isn't being brought into our community. The State of New Jersey is getting some national attention, but let's be realistic, how difficult is it for New Jersey to get national attention? Of course a lot of the time that attention is unwanted, but even in the case of the Super Bowl we have to fight for our share of the stage against New York -- where the real economic advantages of this event are being seen.
I don't want everyone to think that this is a sour grapes rant. The fact is that while everyone has been counting down the days until Super Bowl XLVIII today, Feb. 2, those of us who have responsibilities to our constituents are really worried about tomorrow, Feb. 3, and every day thereafter as we try and find ways to recoup our expenses and enjoy the "pride" we had in being part of the experience -- from a distance.
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