Super Bowl turns spotlight on New Jersey

View of MetLife Stadium at Sunset before the game between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings  at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Getty Images
View of MetLife Stadium at Sunset before the game between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Getty Images

When New Jersey steps into the spotlight next month to host its first Super Bowl, it hopes to alter its international reputation beyond stereotypes from TV shows such as mob drama “The Sopranos” and the vapid 20-somethings of “Jersey Shore.”

One problem for the state, which has long lived in the shadow of its superstar neighbor New York, is that the new MetLife Stadium, site of the February 2 National Football League championship game, is in an industrial area that belies New Jersey’s designation as “The Garden State.”

Officials in East Rutherford, some 10 miles west of New York City, will roll out the red carpet for an expected 400,000 visitors, with economic activity forecast at $500 million.

“New Jersey has been fighting a negative stereotype for a long, long time,” said Michael Rockland, a professor of New Jersey history at Rutgers University. It “was kind of the national joke there for a while, with a reputation for corruption, being called the armpit of America.”

New Jersey is a state of contrasts. Home to the largest number of Superfund toxic waste sites in the country, it also takes pride in 120 miles of shoreline – some of which is still recovering from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 – and about 15 percent of its land is freshwater wetlands.

The state was at the forefront of the 19th century American industrial revolution, and its major cities remain dotted with long-abandoned warehouses and smokestacks.

It is home as well to some of America’s wealthiest communities, including the borough of Alpine, with a median home price of $4.5 million, the most expensive in the country, real estate experts say.

Many of the residents who live in New Jersey’s toniest areas commute to New York City for work, and the state has been seen as an annex of its more famous neighbor. In fact, two sports teams that call MetLife Stadium home are, in name, from New York – the Giants and Jets.

East Rutherford, where the new stadium was completed in 2010, might not put the state’s best face forward.

“People coming to New Jersey for the Super Bowl are basically seeing the ugliest part of the state,” Rockland said.

SPRUCING UP THE AREA

One of the first orders of business is to ready the 82,500-seat stadium for the game, with thousands of workers upgrading security, building a new broadcast center and creating decorations for the two competing teams, the NFL said.

With an expected attendance of nearly a half million, local officials have spent months making preparations to handle crowds moving between New York City and the stadium area.

“Every Super Bowl is different,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. “The stadiums for the last two Super Bowls, New Orleans and Indianapolis, were in a downtown city setting. But previous Super Bowls were held in somewhat similar situations as this year.”

As the stadium undergoes its facelift, officials are also sprucing up the surrounding area, long dominated by a megamall that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie once called “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey, and maybe America.”

The American Dream project, formerly called Xanadu, stands out with its blue, white and orange rectangular facade, evoking the towers of shipping containers at New Jersey’s cargo ports.

Dogged for a decade by funding problems, it will remain vacant on game day although Christie has supported its completion, saying it will bring thousands of jobs.

“It’s going to be an embarrassment,” said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the Sierra Club in New Jersey, which promotes environmental conservation. “Everyone who shows up for the Super Bowl from all over the world is going to look at that thing, scratch their heads and try to figure out what it is.”

“American Dream is under construction,” said Alan Marcus, a mall project spokesman who called the criticism “absolutely unfair.”

New Jersey tourism officials said they are ready for the influx of visitors, emphasizing that the state “has plenty to offer, from historic sites and national parks to world-class entertainment, resorts and gaming in Atlantic City.”

But however much they polish it up, the area around the stadium will still remind visitors of New Jersey’s industrial heritage, said Rutgers’ Rockland.

“We aren’t the Garden State,” he said. “We might have been during the 19th Century but we then became one of the most industrial states in the whole country. The Garden State idea is a total misnomer.”

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Gunther from 'Friends' talks Central Perk

We spoke with Gunther (James Michael Tyler) at the preview for new pop-up Central Perk, based on the cafe in "Friends."

Local

Central Perk opens in SoHo

Central Perk, of "Friends" fame, is giving out free coffee in SoHo through Oct. 18.

National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Music

FREEMAN makes Freeman a free man from Ween

For nearly 30 years, Aaron Freeman was known endearingly to his listeners as Gene Ween. But with "FREEMAN," he makes it clear that he's gone somewhere else.

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."