Over his lengthy career, big-league facility manager Ron VanDeVeen has worked on major sporting events from the World Cup to the NBA Finals. On Sunday, he’ll add the Super Bowl to that list.
“The Super Bowl is definitely the biggest, in regards to logistics and the magnitude of the event,” says VanDeVeen, the senior VP of events at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., which will host Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2.
MetLife Stadium is not stranger to hosting professional football games. Since opening in 2010, the 82,000-capacity stadium has been the home National Football League’s New York Jets and New York Giants.
The New Jersey stadium has also hosted numerous concerts and music festivals, including dates by Kenny Chesney, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, Hot 97 Summer Jam and the Electric Daisy Carnival. In 2013, MetLife ranked No. 1 on Billboard’s top 10 stadiums chart, grossing $48.7 million from 18 shows, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Shortly after the buildings 2010 opening, NFL team Owners John Mara, Steve Tisch (Giants) and Robert Wood Johnson IV (Jets) won the bid to host the Super Bowl in 2014. VanDeVeen and his staff have been working alongside the NFL to plan the event ever since.
In addition to the Big Game, the MetLife Stadium team is also working on numerous pre-parties taking place around the sports complex, including an 11,000-person NFL tailgate party at the old racetrack and a 6,000-person event at the Izod Center.
“This complex is definitely abuzz and there’s a lot of stuff going on,” he says, estimating that about 1,000 people are working to make it all happen. “We’ve been working every day since Jan. 2 — 12 to 14 hours per day.”
In the interview below, VanDeVeen gives Billboard.biz an inside look at how the MetLife Stadium team is preparing for Super Bowl XLVIII, details about working alongside the NFL to stage the huge sporting event, his past experience on working the World Cup and WrestleMania, who he’s rooting for to win, and much more.
You’re three days out from the Super Bowl. What’s your day-to-day looking like at this point?
There are a lot of meetings. We start at 8 o’clock in the morning with an NFL meeting, and then we usually have 9 o’clock and 10 o’clock meetings. We get a little break in the afternoon to do some work, sometimes, and then we’re meeting again at 4 o’clock. It keeps going.
What’s the backstory on how MetLife Stadium got the bid for the 2014 Super Bowl?
It was May 2010 when we were awarded the bid. The Giants (John Mara, Steve Tisch) and Jets (Robert Wood Johnson IV) ownership decided to bid. We’ve been working on this for three-and-a-half years. There was obviously a lot that went into the bid about trying to decide where things were going to be — where’s the NFL tailgate party going to be? Where are the NFL hospitality locations? All of these discussions started and happened over next couple years. This is the NFL’s event, so they make the final decision on how things are going to go. We give them options on everything. The teams hired Al Kelly (president/CEO of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Company) to head up the host committee.
The NFL is basically running the show for the Super Bowl. So explain what role the MetLife Stadium staff plays in the event.
We’re here to support the NFL. We give them options and they make final decisions. We advise them on what we think might work in this building, because obviously we’re used to the building. It’s been open four years and we have a good sense of how it runs. There have been a lot of meetings over the past couple years where we go over everything, from where the VIP parties are to how the guests are coming to what route families should take to get onto the field for whoever wins. We’re the experts at the building and they’re the experts at the Super Bowl. So we work together.
How’s the stadium’s staff holding up? I’m sure the hours are brutal.
We’ve been working every day since Jan. 2 — 12 to 14 hours per day. We’re going to do 30 straight days of work. I have to give our staff a lot of credit. There’s a lot of planning and logistics. And with that comes the actual implementation of it all, from taking out a lot of seats to building auxiliary press boxes to tents in the parking lots. All of these things had to be built in a month and it’s a lot of work. In the middle of it, we threw in a couple of snowstorms and had to clear snow out of the stadium.
People forget that we have about three weeks to take everything down and put it back to normal. The unsung people who really make this work are the guys out there for the past month in the parking lots. It’s been a pretty good cold spell this month and to do all this in that weather temperature was absolutely amazing.
Have there been any major challenges or setbacks in the planning of the Super Bowl thus far?
The NFL has a couple contractors they work with year in and year out, so they go from Super Bowl to Super Bowl and are experts at it. And then you combine that with the building and our local knowledge. The biggest thing is always about communication and it’s been working great so far.
You’ve worked on many other large-scale sporting and music events. How do they compare to preparing for the Super Bowl?
I worked the World Cup in 1994 for the seven games at Giants Stadium, and the NCAA final four at the Izod Center in 1996. I’ve worked NHL and NBA finals, and also the WrestleMania this past year at MetLife, which was the biggest sporting/entertainment event in the world. For me personally, everything is a little bit different. The Super Bowl is definitely the biggest, in regards to logistics and the magnitude of the event.
What will you be doing during the Super Bowl?
There’s a command center, so I’ll be working with all the different organizations, from the NFL to contractors to our staff.
Lastly, Denver or Seattle?
I’m rooting for the event to run smoothly.