EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jubilant fans sporting the team colors of Denver and Seattle filled MetLife Stadium for the Super Bowl on a mild winter evening Sunday, the mood upbeat despite long lines and intense security procedures.
More than 27,000 people crammed onto New Jersey Transit’s trains, setting a ridership record that easily surpassed the previous mark of 22,000 in 2009 for a U2 concert. Security was slow at train stations, but by 5:15 p.m., 80,000 folks had already made it in. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said it was the earliest arriving Super Bowl crowd in at least 30 years.
New Jersey State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes said there had been a few minor incidents by mid-afternoon, but that operations had gone smoothly. The weather cooperated, too, with the temperature at kickoff hitting 49 degrees for the first Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium in a cold-weather city.
After nearly four years of speculation about a Super Bowl played in the freezing cold and swirling snow, many fans filing into the stadium didn’t even wear jackets. Players in shorts warmed up on the field, and TV commentators stood around in their sport coats.
Alex Wilson-Haid, 20, and Mitchell McComb of Yelm, Wash., were both dressed for the moderate temperatures, and both found some good luck.
“Both Denver and Seattle are cold-weather cities so the fans are prepared,” Wilson-Haid said. “They have all the gear to watch the game and it’s not even that cold.”
The two somehow got onto the grounds of the Meadowlands sports complex without tickets. Authorities had said tickets were needed to get on the grounds.
Within 15 minutes of talking to The Associated Press, they returned with two tickets, with a face value of $1,000 apiece.
“We got them for $500 (total),” McComb said. “There are nice people in this world.”
Jake Anderson, 22, a college senior at the University of Northern Colorado, was wearing a Peyton Manning jersey and a Super Bowl hat. He said he had an accounting test on Thursday he hadn’t studied for and didn’t expect to pass.
“This is going to be worth the F I get on Thursday,” he said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. You have to drop everything and do it.”
The only minor disruption for commuting fans came at Secaucus Junction, the start of NJ Transit’s 6.8-mile line to the stadium in East Rutherford, where they had to pass through a security checkpoint manned by TSA agents.
Emergency medical personnel told The Associated Press that they had to treat several people who collapsed when the station became overcrowded. Lines began moving again after a little more than an hour of delays.
“It was kind of a bottleneck,” NJ Transit spokesman William Smith said. “A number of trains arrived at once.”
Some trains were then held back at Penn Station to ease the traffic flow, Smith said.
Andy Weinstein, who works for a bottling company in Seattle, was wearing a bright neon green costume with a Seahawks jersey over it.
“I feel like if I’m flying cross-country for this, I might as well look ridiculous,” he said. “I’m wearing this for this game, for my team.”
From sharpshooters on top of buildings to boats patrolling the rivers around the stadium, roughly 100 agencies are involved in handling security in some way for the first Super Bowl held in the New York-New Jersey area.
Fans were only allowed to carry a small clutch bag or purse that’s no bigger than 6.5 by 4.5 inches and a clear plastic bag that’s about as big as a freezer storage bag, per the NFL’s bag policy. Fans also had to go through metal detectors and regular security at the stadium, as well.
Dozens of bomb-sniffing dogs were checking cars as they entered the complex and sniffing bags of credentialed media members.
At the Blarney Rock Pub in midtown Manhattan, Seahawks fans were cheering and dancing around as the game blared from several television screens. Amanda Schmidt, 37, said she flew in from Seattle to cheer on her hometown team.
“I wanted to be in the city and experience the Super Bowl,” she said. “I feel like I’m part of it. We’re all connected, so it’s really cool.”