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More than a Game

Author: William Rohrs
January, 2016 Issue

The Bay Area prepares to host a party 50 years in the making.


A flood is coming to San Francisco.

Predicted to strike just before the first week of February, the city is taking every precaution: it’s formed a committee, raised funds and made a plan to contain the worst of it. But even the best-laid plans predict a titanic ripple effect spilling into Silicon Valley, Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties.

We know it’s coming, but we’re not evacuating. Instead, Bay Are citizens are preparing to fly their team colors in anticipation of the 1 million-person horde surging to San Francisco and Santa Clara to celebrate Super Bowl 50, projected to be the biggest event in NFL history, according to the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee.

And those one million people are going to have parched throats, empty stomachs and need a place to lay their heads.

This is the job for Keith Bruce, former president of San Rafael’s Sportsmark managing group and CEO and president of the Host Committee. “I resigned from my post at Sportsmark to enter the three-year CEO position for the Host Committee,” says Bruce. “It’s a full-time commitment. We made a good push to secure the hosting bid, and we have to fulfill our financial obligations to put on the biggest Super Bowl in history, and possibly the biggest Bay Area event in history.”

San Francisco secured the bid to erect a viewer village for Super Bowl 50 in May 2013, with Santa Clara’s 70,000 capacity Levi’s Stadium hosting the actual game. To win the bid, the potential host city needs to charm the NFL with a proposal that stands out against its competitors. Once secured, a Host Committee then raises funds and establishes partnerships to enact the proposed plans. All funds come from sources generated internally from the 30-person Host Committee; the NFL brings the teams.

“That doesn’t mean the cities don’t help us out, too; this is a partnership,” says Bruce. “In fact, we work with the numerous fire, police and administrative services around the region. We’re going to use Justin Herman Plaza, at the foot of Market Street at the Embarcadero, and transform it into a fan village we’re calling Super Bowl City.” 

The Playbook

From January 30 to February 7, Super Bowl City will showcase California’s technology, dining and culture in a weeklong jamboree of state pride. During its opening ceremony, the lights on the Bay Bridge will turn on and stay permanently lit until the end of the Super Bowl.

At the center, the NFL will recreate the 49 previous Super Bowls, featuring the most iconic moments and triumphs in football history.

The Host Committee collaborated with Sonoma County as its wine partner, and 64 wineries from the county will sell wine flights for 12 hours every day until the bottles run dry. But volume isn’t an issue for Sonoma County Vintners (SCV), which already supplied 1,000 cases of wine for the Host Committee’s fundraisers and other private functions. Napa Valley secured the rights to provide wine for a single event, but every other experience will exclusively feature Sonoma County wines.

SCV Executive Director Carolyn Stark says none of the 1,000 cases already supplied will go to Super Bowl City the majority of the donated wine from participating wineries will be used by the Super Bowl Host Committee to entertain VIPs before and during the Super Bowl. “The wines used in the Sonoma County venue—dubbed “Taste of Sonoma”—in Super Bowl City will be purchased by the Host Committee’s concessionaire, ” she says. Stark estimates the final price tag, even at $15 to $20 per bottle on average at wholesale, will provide a sizeable bump in the county’s $13.4 billion wine industry.

“We need to provide wine for four wine flights from four wineries for nine days to as many as one million people. That’s a lot of wine,” says Stark. 

A tidal wave of green

It’s difficult to imagine what 1 million people looks like when they’re all trying to get to Super Bowl City to watch the big game on gigantic HD televisions. To put things in perspective, the entire population of the city of San Francisco, as of 2015, is just north of 800,000. With that in mind, the Host Committee needs to accommodate a population greater than its host city in a popup village nested inside that city. This is why it created the destination partner program.

Destination partners pair up with the Host Committee to provide lodging, activities and a place to watch the game so San Francisco’s already-beleaguered traffic system doesn’t turn into a petting zoo with faulty locks and no adult supervision. Listed on the Host Committee’s website, Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Pebble Beach are the destination partners for Super Bowl 50.

“We love our Napa neighbors, but we’re really going to show everyone what we’re all about at Sonoma County,” says Ken Fischang, president and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism. His organization, SCV and the major transportation and catering services in Sonoma County are working together to make sure visitors for the game go home breathless.

James Luchini, group sales manager at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, says he’s happy for the opportunity to present his brand at the village and cater to the expected increase of patrons at the winery. “We won’t be able to pour ourselves at the village. The Host Committee will provide its own pourers. But we’re sending staff to talk about our Directors, Directors Cut, Francis Coppola Reserve, Archimedes, Eleanor and Pitagora wines, some of which will be at the village.”

Luchini adds that the winery is hoping for a surge of activity throughout the weeks surrounding the Super Bowl.

Executives from around the world booked their Sonoma County experience well in advance in anticipation for the big day. Stark at SCV says she’s received calls from executives at Fortune 500 companies, Hewlett-Packard, SAP Software & Solutions and CBS, among others, who are interested in custom entertainment options for their VIP guests. The Trio (Tourism, Vintners and Growers) is working together to provide these. And to guarantee comfort to the county from the village, Sonoma County Tourism contracted Pure Luxury Transportation in Petaluma to provide limousine services throughout the event week. Visitors can use the county’s website to customize their experience by creating travel packages, combining transportation, lodging and wine tasting in a single website.

Just over the Mayacamas, Napa County isn’t planning to be left out of the festivities. Clay Gregory, president of Visit Napa Valley says his organization is collaborating with the Host Committee to put together many travel packages that distill the Napa Valley experience in a one-week getaway. “There are so many things to do in Napa, it’s difficult to compress it all into a week,” he says. “But if that’s your only time to experience the area, we’re going to make sure it’s memorable.”

Destinations like Robert Mondavi Winery, the Riverfront in downtown Napa, the Oxbow Public Market and one of the three performing art centers are on Gregory’s list. “Ideally, you’ll get to taste all five towns, figuratively and also for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he says. “If the weather is going to be as clear as we hope it is for the game itself and we get some good rainfall between here and there, I recommend taking a hot air balloon ride and seeing the wild mustard bloom. It really brings spectacular colors to the Valley.”


Gold trophies on parade

To build up hype for Super Bowl 50, the NFL and Chevron teamed up to present the 50 Tour: Champions of the Bay, where the Bay Area’s eight Super Bowl Vince Lombardi trophies (five from the 49ers, three from the Raiders) come together for the first time in a mobile display across the Bay. No other area in America can claim as many Super Bowl trophies as the Bay Area. From San Francisco to Sacramento, the tour stopped at 14 different locations to tailgate, watch 49er games and bring in current and retired NFL legends to sign autographs and promote the tour between September and November 2015.

In addition to memorabilia, Chevron, the legacy partner who teamed up with the Host Committee during the bidding process, showcased the Chevron STEM Zone, where people can see the enormous roles science, technology, engineering and mathematics play to make football the high-tech spectacle sport it is today.

“The goal of the Chevron STEM Zone is to excite students about science, technology, engineering and math by showing some of the real world applications of STEM. It creates an awareness of how STEM is connected to everyday lives, such as football,” says Melissa Ritchie, a media advisor for the policy, government and public affairs of Chevron. Science and mathematics are critical contributors both inside and outside the games, she explains. Players need kinesiology and sports medicine professionals who know how to keep their bodies fit and identify potential injuries and problems before its too late. Engineers and physicists design modern-day sports equipment, like protective padding, helmets and gloves that stick to the ball when caught. Architects and engineers create stadiums the spectators occupy, with provisions in case of rain, snow or intense heat.

“Football is more than just about the athletes,” says Ritchie. “For example, the scientists, doctors and mathematicians behind them have a significant impact on the sport.”

The 50 Tour also sets up a display for the Super Bowl Honor Roll, which immortalizes more than 99 community players and coaches across the greater Bay Area. Children looking for an active challenge ran the PLAY 60, Play On obstacle course, created by the U.S. fund for UNICEF and Kaboom! Playworks. The course is designed to keep children active in an imaginative, fully interactive playground. Children interested in reading about NFL legends and other football activities went to The Re(a)d Zone, which doubled as a community effort to promote reading proficiency at the third-grade level.


Hearts of gold in the Bay Area

As a requirement from the NFL, 25 percent of the funds raised by the Host Committee need to go to charitable causes. Committee CEO Bruce says he not only welcomes the opportunity to give back to the area that gave so much to the cause, but, he adds, to commemorate the largest event in Super Bowl history, the Host Committee wants to make this Super Bowl the most giving in history as well.

“We’ve already raised more than $8 million [as of October] for this cause and we’re giving it all we have” says Bruce. “We have a target fund-raising goal of $12 million to give to worthy causes around the Bay Area, leaving previous records in our dust.”

Instead of picking a single charity or organization, writing a check with many, many zeroes on it and calling it a day—the Host Committee set up the Playmakers 50 Fund, recognizing 50 community “playmakers” over the course of the Super Bowl campaign. Recipients ranged from groups providing education to disadvantaged youth, medical services for those in need and community leadership programs.

Jesper Nordqvist, a teacher at the Greenacre Home & School in Sebastopol says the $10,000 he was awarded on behalf of the vocational school would go towards an interactive community garden. “The students here have their own Individual Education Program plan. We’re teaching vocational job skills to children who are emotionally disturbed, or have autism spectrum disorder,” he says. “They’re 16 to 21 years old, and in the 17 years I’ve been here, I found the key to helping them is keeping them interested in the material. When I asked them what interested them about business, they said ‘money,’ so now we’re teaching them how to handle money by working in the garden to provide food for the community homes in our academy, or making pottery in the ceramics program.”

Nordqvist currently teaches 25 students in tandem with another instructor. Each instructor has three teacher’s aids that keep constant supervision on the students.

The grant money for Greenacre will go to a 6,000-square-foot community garden on the grounds, with students installing the irrigation and turning the soil in preparation for planting local plant life this spring. “These are the most at-risk youths in the county,” says Nordqvist. “They’re learning practical skills like gardening, plant and soil management and landscaping. They’ll be building benches and other equipment as well. It takes organization and coordination, and they’ll have to work together.”

In San Francisco, Joi Jackson-Morgan received playmaker recognition for her work helping underprivileged men and women receive health care and sex education in the Bayview-Hunters Point area through the 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic

“Joi grew up in the area, earned her bachelor’s degree and came back to help the neighborhood that raised her,” says Dr. Ayanna Bennet, pediatrician and executive director at the clinic. “She’s taught everyone to be perfect when scanning for STDs. She’s never missed a single one. We think we’re going to lose her soon because she’s going on to medical school. But the way I see it, she’s going to be able to teach and help the world, and that’s worth it to me.”

The clinic will use its grant funds to jumpstart a social media campaign, which cranks out info-memes and videos discussing the dangers of unsafe sex, and educating people on the importance of sexual health and regular checkups.

Nestled on a hill between two public parks, the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland will use its grant fund, awarded to former firefighter and center volunteer Larry Hendricks, for its brand-new “Random Acts of Science” program. “When Larry started ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ at the Oakland fire department, he did so to help firefighters cope with the pain and suffering they encounter in their jobs. ” says Associate Director of Development Stephanie Casenza. “Taking firefighters to schools, seeing the families and interacting with children in a positive way had an immediate effect on the firefighters and the kids. We want to do the same thing by bringing the best of Chabot Space & Science Center to people who can’t afford to visit the center.”

“Random Acts of Kindness” started as an exercise to bring the community closer to local firefighters in the area. Students learn what a firefighter’s responsibilities are, along with what firefighters do to keep their area safe. Started in Oakland, “Random Acts of Kindness” was picked up nationally, and fire stations all across the country have a version of the original exercise thought up by Hendricks.

Chabot serves as a scientific field trip destination for more than 50,000 elementary students each year, with 120,000 people learning astronomy from them annually. The center features three telescopes: one originally donated by namesake Henry Chabot in 1883; a second telescope used to view celestial bodies in our solar system; and The third telescope, which saw first light at Chabot in 2003, is a powerful 36” reflecting telescope that is used in research projects tracking asteroids and exoplanets, according to Casenza.

“Random Acts of Science” will take the Chabot center to schools around Oakland, and when they bring their mobile planetarium with them they’ll bring a sorely missed science lesson to schools that can’t afford to make the trip. “We’re bringing the best of the Chabot Space & Science Center to kids who won’t get that opportunity otherwise. We’re very lucky to have someone like Larry on our team,” says Casenza.

Joelle Gallagher, executive director of the COPE Family Center in Napa, sees 700 families come in for help each year. Stemming from mostly low-income, mental disability or substance abuse households, COPE provides structure, life coaching and child supervision to improve family relationships before courts and the State Department intervene.

Its grant from the 50 Playmakers Fund will benefit the Child Room, a space that needs to accommodate 1,300 children in 2016. The Child Room needs toys, supervision and programs to occupy kids while their parents receive consultations and advice on managing work and parenting.

COPE includes a home visitation program as well as a parental planning program, where advisors visit expectant mothers during the second trimester of pregnancy and sticks with that family until the child is 3 to 5 years old.

The host committee is in the red zone. They’ve raised their funds, planned out the village and continue to name playmakers all over the Bay Area. All that remains is the big week, where fans flood San Francisco and Santa Clara in anticipation of the big game.


Champions of the Bay


With eight Vincent Lombardi trophies, the Bay Area has the most Super Bowl victories in the country under its belt. Below is a timeline with the scores, teams and coaches behind each win.

1976: John Madden coaches the Oakland Raiders against the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI to a 32-14 win.

1980: Coach Tom Flores leads a Raiders victory against the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 in Super Bowl XV.

1981: Bill Walsh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, took on the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI, beating them 26-21.

1983: Flores and the Raiders come back to Super Bowl XVIII to beat the Washington Redskins 38-9.

1984: In Super Bowl XIX, Walsh and the 49ers play against the Miami Dolphins, ending with a 38-16 victory.

1988: Super Bowl XXIII saw a repeat of ’81, with a 49er victory against the Bengals, 20-16.

1989: George Siefert coached the 49ers to a 55-10 win against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.

1994: The 49ers under Siefert took down the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX 49-26.


The Best of the Bay Area


Until the start of Super Bowl 50, the host committee will nominate one person every week to receive the 50 Fund Playmaker award. As of December, 38 men and women received the honor, and the grant awarded alongside. Bay Area recipients include:

• Adam Karr, SEO Scholars San Francisco;

• Dante Kaleo Alnas-Benson, Ecology Center Berkeley;

• Rita Nazarian, 826 Valencia, San Francisco;

• Angel Vanstark, San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trangender Community Center;

• Dr. Washington Burns, M.D., Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Enhancement, INC, Oakland;

• Sean Sullivan, Covenant House California, Oakland;

• Liz Butler Steyer, Athletic Scholars Advancement Program, San Francisco;

• Eric Lukoff, San Francisco Court Appointment Special Advocate Program;

• Jessica Rojas, CoachArt, Oakland;

• Ron Zeno, Oakland Children’s Fairyland, INC;

• Carlos Garcia, Catholic Charities—Canal Family Support, San Rafael;

• Jacob Moody, Bayview Hunters Point Foundation, San Francisco;

• Zoe Willmott, Community Works West, San Francisco and Oakland;

• Andrew Wilson, East Bay College Fund, Oakland;

• Brian Stanley, Oakland Public Education Fund;

• Susan Angell, Sonoma Ecology Center;

• Eddy Zheng, Community Youth Center of San Francisco;

• Javier Ochoa Reyes, Groundwork Richmond;

• Gino Pastori-Ng, United Roots/Youth Seed, Oakland;

• Kelly Carlisle, Acta Non Verba, Oakland; and

• Beth Schmidt, Wishbone, San Francisco.




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