NEWARK, N.J. (AP) After serving as the site for the NBA and NHL drafts, a Stanley Cup final and numerous concerts, Newark had no problem dealing with handling a media horde covering the Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.
There were some traffic delays and a late train on the way to Prudential Center. It wasn’t much for New Jersey’s largest city to worry about.
The 50 or so buses carrying the media got there on time with reporters and broadcasters seeing a promotional film about Newark to go along with a cup of coffee and breakfast bun.
The Broncos and Seahawks got surprises, too. They were greeted by public school students and new Mayor Luis Quintana.
Notable among the absentees was New Jersey Gov . Chris Christie, who is under a microscope after allegations that his aides manufactured traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge as political payback.
The fans, athletes and the journalists covering media day had more than enough people to interview without Christie.
”This is a great opportunity for Newark,” Quintana said. ”Newark is not just an airport. Newark is more than an airport, or train station or seaport. Newark is a place where people live and like to come to a great arena and entertain themselves. New Jersey’s largest city is a great place to have this day, and it’s not just today. We want people to continue to come to Newark.”
Scott O’Neil, the chief executive officer of the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia 76ers and Prudential Center, said a local businessman accompanied every bus and talked about working in Newark and its advantages.
”This was a chance to show Newark as a wonderful city,” said O’Neil, who oversees the arena that has 200 events annually and is the home of the Devils of the NHL.
Heading into the arena, the city had some of its youngest citizens greet the player, coaches and other team personnel. Roughly 50 students representing four Newark schools welcomed the players with glow-sticks, pom-pons and cheers:
”Good Luck Broncos, Good Luck” or ”Let’s Go Broncos.”
Broncos coach John Fox gave the youngsters a thumbs up leaving the building and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll high-fived many on the welcome line minutes later going into the state-of-the-art building.
One Broncos player gave 12-year-old Sophia – her last name was withheld by school officials – a hat.
”I’m going to wear it,” she said proudly.
Moise, another 12-year-old from Robert Treat Academy, said the students discovered they would be going to Prudential Center for media day on Monday. They were up at 6:30 a.m. and stood in an area near a cold loading dock for about four hours.
”The players were really happy to see us,” he said.
Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett took pom-pons from a cheerleader and shook them.
”I used to be one of those little kids, wishing I could be out there when the players came in,” Bennett said. ”It means a lot for them to see us come. One day one those guys are going to be sitting up here and they are going to want to give back just like we did.”
Fans paid $30 or more to attend the media day, and they enjoyed hearing the players talk.
Wearing a Seahawks’ jersey, transplanted Seattle resident Chris Michelson of Basking Ridge, N.J., was there, carrying his 2-year-old son, Brock.
”This is great,” he said.
Greg Packer, 50, of Huntington, N.Y. said being at a Super Bowl media day in the New York-area was surreal. The only thing that would have made it better was having the Jets in the game.
”I think their next Super Bowl victory will be when I’m dead, unfortunately,” said Packer, who said his train from New York was right on time.
Harry Kerch, 47, and his son, Palmer, 14, of Allentown, Pa., had different interests. Harry is a Broncos fan. His son roots for Seattle.
”This is a chance for him and I to come out,” Harry Kerch said, ”and see something we normally would not see.”
Harry Frezza, a sports writer with nj press media in New Jersey, was late for the Broncos’ session because his NJTransit train was delayed for 24 minutes just outside of Newark.
”Someone wanted to get off and walk and they wouldn’t let him,’ Frezza said.
That better not be a problem Sunday. Organizers for the host committee say about 65,000 fans are expected to use mass transit to get to the game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
Most of the fans had been to Newark. Long-time Broncos’ fan Jimmy Killian, 35, of nearby Bloomfield, has been to the city many times.
”This city is changing,” he said. ”There are a lot of good things here and building this arena helped. Now you have the Super Bowl.”
KIillian has heard some people associate Newark with the airport.
”Either that, or they get nervous,” he said. ”It’s not like that at all. We have a lot of good things around here.”
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