NEW ORLEANS - Planning, practice and backup plans – from hotel and airport managers to the players and fans, a lot of work has gone into making Super Bowl 47 in New Orleans a “Big Easy.”
It’s a good thing, because the stress could be felt as the press swarmed, fans began to trickle into the historic district and two teams of champions descended on New Orleans and captivated everyone in earshot or eyesight.
You didn’t have to go far to see it. It was everywhere – from the airport to Bourbon Street. By Monday evening, still about a week from the Super Bowl, the Ravens and the 49ers had begun to turn New Orleans upside down.
Some, like Ravens fan Kristin Mink of Silver Spring, Maryland, found comfort and excitement in the frenzy. Mink is a die-hard fan. You can see it from about a block away. Maybe it’s the way she carries herself – or maybe, it’s the large “B” for Baltimore that she has shaved into the side of her head.
“I like to kind of do spur of the moment things with my hair,” she said.
Mink said she had already shaved the side of her head and saw it as a blank canvas. When the Ravens won last week, getting the cut, she said, seemed perfect. She got the cut at The Suite Barber Shop in Silver Spring last night so that it would be fresh for the game.
Michelle Wilcut of the New Orleans International Airport had a different take on the frenzy – one that was a bit stressful. You could hear it in her voice as she directed and redirected media crews awaiting the arrival of the teams at the airport Monday.
“It’s probably been about two years that we’ve worked on this, off and on,” Wilcut said.
Monday was just the kickoff of her week and the frenzy she says will follow. Wilcut describes it in one word – “crushing.” The airport expects more media, fans and NFL representatives between now and Sunday. Wilcut says the bigger days will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
But, it doesn’t stop there. She says about 42,000 people are expected to fly out of New Orleans on the Monday after Super Bowl 47, just before another frenzy in the form of Mardi Gras – seven days later.
“It (the frenzy) brings with it a lot of ground transportation that you wouldn’t normally see. You have to really plan to have all of that activity available,” Wilcut said.
She says it’s a challenge because the New Orleans International Airport is a small airport.
“You take a deep breath and you kinda just roll with it,” Wilcut said. “It’s kinda like planning a wedding. Something always goes wrong, but usually it’s small and most people don’t even realize it went wrong.”
Ravens and 49ers players and staff members witnessed the frenzy as much as they were a part of it. As the 49ers drove into town, drivers of cars on the interstate pulled to the side to take photos. As the Ravens took questions after arriving at their hotel, it was standing room only.
The NFL says there are more than 5,000 members of the media credentialed for the game.
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