NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some 80,000 football fans from around the world are set to pack into New Jersey's Met Life Stadium on Sunday for the first NFL Super Bowl championship played in the New York area, an event that has shone a fresh spotlight on the region.
The weather forecast is mild, rather than the below-freezing conditions that had been feared for the first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl, and police have so far faced just one highly visible threat, a Friday hoax in which suspicious but harmless powder was sent to hotels around the region.
For fans from the New York area, the game presents a rare opportunity to see a Super Bowl without traveling to Florida, California or other warm-weather locations that often host what is typically the most-watched sporting event in the United States.
"I normally watch the game on TV and get wings and whatever, but the combination of the location and the fact that one of my coworkers could get the tickets at face value, meant we could go and pay only a moderately exorbitant amount of money," said Julia Lunetta, a 33-year-old tech worker from Dobbs Ferry, New York, who plans to attend the Denver Broncos-Seattle Seahawks matchup with friends from work.
The game's location, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, some 10 miles west of New York City, has posed logistical challenges for organizers, with events in the week leading up to the 6:25 p.m. ET (2300 GMT) kickoff spread among New York City, Jersey City and Newark, New Jersey.
On Sunday, police will be out in force, inspecting fans even as they board the trains and buses that are expected to carry about 30,000 people to the stadium.
Officials from more than 100 state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation, are monitoring the region from a command center located at an undisclosed site near the stadium.
"There's been a lot of planning for a lot of months and even years in making this Super Bowl successful, and that's in large part because of the broad metropolitan area that we're in," said Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League. "It's more complex being in a larger area where you're crossing over states and different jurisdictions, but everyone has been fantastic.
Despite earlier expectations for bitter cold and possible snow at the 48th Super Bowl, Sunday brought mild temperatures, with a forecast high of 48 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius), with lows expected to drop to just about freezing. The National Weather Service warned there was a chance of rain.
Online ticket resellers showed seats starting at about $1,600 and rising above $2,000, up from opening prices of about $1,300 a week earlier.
While much of the focus has been on New York, where a 3/4-mile stretch of taken over by a four-day street fair where fans could try to kick a field goal, get a player's autograph or ride a 60-foot-high (18-meter-high) toboggan slide, the game has also been a boost to New Jersey.
The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos both stayed in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, and fans could be seen roaming near the hotels the teams had taken over, trying to catch a glimpse of the players.
Troy Maragos, a 29-year-old pastor from Chicago, opted to spend a few nights in that city of 254,441 people ahead of the game.
"I'm impressed by how clean everything is," Maragos said as he boarded a train. "The subway system is great, it's been nice that it's so easy to get back and forth from New York."
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said having both teams stay had been a boost for local businesses.
"From an economic point of view, we won't have the full sense of it until sometime after the Super Bowl, but the restaurants are more full than usual, there are fans visiting here," Fulop said. "It's going to be a benefit to New York, it's going to be a benefit to New Jersey, it's going to benefit the whole region."
Even as the estimated 400,000 people who are believed to have traveled into the region for the game and related events geared up for kickoff, some New Yorkers were looking forward to seeing the crowds thin out on Monday.
At a United Parcel Service Inc store on Broadway that faced the Super Bowl Boulevard street fair, Mello Smith complained that the crowds slowed things down.
"This is hard for the customers, too," Smith said. "They are complaining. They want their deliveries or they want to drop off, and it's a hassle."
Likewise, Dustin Drankoski, a 27-year-old a photo editor, said the added crowds in an already congested area of Manhattan had made his commute to his office near Times Square even more difficult.
"The real annoyance is all the tourists and the lines of people," Drankoski said. "There are lines of people in the subway station waiting to go through the stalls and they don't know how to use their MetroCards, so you just have to wait," he said. "The people who are really impacted are the drivers. There's no way to get around this area."
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Nick Zieminski