NEW YORK (Reuters) - The largest show on Broadway opened in New York on Wednesday when the city turned over a 3/4 mile stretch of Midtown for a “Super Bowl Boulevard” street fair, drawing thousands of locals and visitors.
The event, part of the build-up to Sunday’s National Football League championship game, gave football fans and the simply curious a chance to see players, try their luck at kicking a field goal in Manhattan’s intense wind or ride a 60-foot-high (18-meter-high) toboggan run.
Officials estimated that 1 million people would visit the , 13 blocks between 34th Street and 47th Street closed off to cars for attractions that also included a concert stage where performers such as Broadway star Michael Cavanaugh and Blondie are scheduled to perform nightly.
The scene impressed many who braved the 21 degree Fahrenheit (minus-6 Celsius) weather.
“This exemplifies what New York is about, bringing all types of people together from around the world,” New York City resident Angel Crawford said of the Broadway event. “It’s such a historic event here in New York. We had to be part of it.”
The February 2 game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, who will play across the Hudson River in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will be the first in the region.
Lonnie Moreno, who drove 1,800 miles from Thornton, Colorado, was dressed in his home team’s colors: blue shorts, orange jersey, blue wig, with his face painted blue and orange.
“I’m here to experience the whole thing,” he said. “I have not been here to New York at all. This is my first experience and it’s awesome so far.”
The centerpiece was the toboggan run, which impressed even the top law enforcement officials charged with providing security.
During a briefing with reporters, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton jokingly invited the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, to “try that toboggan run.”
The NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee has estimated the Super Bowl will bring $550 million to $600 million to the region. An estimated 400,000 people will travel from out of town for the pre-game events, such as the Super Bowl Boulevard, with about 80,000 attending the game at MetLife Stadium.
Greg Garvin, who has lived in New York his entire life, said the city has seen it all, except for a Super Bowl.
“This is like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Garvin said. “I was in the Super Bowl in Miami. But to have an event here down Broadway, it’s wonderful. It’s something different for everyone to enjoy, for all different ages, and even in spite of the cold.”
The event did spark the ire of some commuters, who felt the closure of Broadway made the city’s notorious traffic even worse.
“They say it will bring all this money and tourists, but all the money it costs to do this, to close the road and all this security, it can’t be worth it,” said Queens taxi driver Joe Robinson.
Even those who are not fans of the game were checking out the event.
Elia Cupo, 16, of Summit New Jersey, came into the city after school because her parents said she should see Broadway’s transformation.
“To be honest, we aren’t really football fans,” she said. “But this is awesome and it makes it so much more amazing to know it’s here in Times Square.”
Editing by Scott Malone. Editing by Andre Grenon