MIAMI (Reuters) - After a night of living up to its party reputation Miami was looking for more on Sunday as the final countdown to the Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chief and San Francisco 49ers began under a blanket of security and protests.
More than eight hours before 1830 ET kickoff, fans, some who had paid over $5,000 for a ticket, made their way through miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic, protests by local residents and airport type security before settling into their seats at Hard Rock Stadium.
“We just bought our tickets this morning and came,” said Shon Yust, a lifelong Chiefs fan from Kansas City not saying what he paid. “The prices were slightly lower but not substantially.
“I’m 51, going to be 52, the last time they were in the Super Bowl, I was two. So, we’re like, ‘We better go’.”
The sky-high prices and challenges have done little to spoil the party as the NFL returned to its favorite Super Bowl city for a record 11th time.
Chiefs and Niners supporters decked out in team jerseys along with A-listers and celebrities warmed up for America’s biggest sporting event, which will be watched by a global television audience, by turning South Beach into one big party on Saturday night.
From the Sports Illustrated bash at the iconic Fountainbleau Hotel to Budweiser’s BUDX Hotel event at the other end of Collins Ave., South Beach was turned into one big blowout.
Away from the downtown core Maxim and Lady Gaga anchored the party scene as celebrations raged into the small hours of the morning.
More than 400 private jets, twice the usual number for a weekend, were reported to have clogged up local airports depositing their cargo of high rollers.
Included among those was Air Force One with President Donald Trump spending the weekend at his nearby Mar-a-Lago golf club.
Not everyone was excited about the Super Bowl being back in Miami.
Residents of Miami Gardens, the mostly black, working class area surrounding the stadium, have long felt neglected and even exploited by the Miami Dolphins organization and expressed their unhappiness with about 100 people staging a protest.
They say their quality of life has suffered from the region’s eternal quest for tourism dollars, and fear the area’s black community faces a new chapter in a history of displacement.
Instead of joining millions of Americans celebrating this weekend’s game, protesters took to the streets outside the venue on Sunday to express their frustration.
Editing by Ed Osmond