Long Super Sunday Awaits MetLife Stadium Workers

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The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks won't be the only ones suiting up for a hard day's work at MetLife Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.

Bartenders, cooks, cashiers, security workers, cleaning crews, ticket-takers and thousands of other game-day workers are scheduled to pull super-long shifts serving the more than 80,000 fans who'll pack the stadium this Sunday.

Some will arrive before dawn and won't set foot outside the East Rutherford, N.J., stadium until well past midnight.

Management company Delaware North Sportservice, which oversees food concessions and retailing at the stadium, employs about 3,000 of those who will be on duty.

"For most of them, this will be the longest day by far," says Bill Lohr, stadium general manager for Delaware North.

He's met with workers ages "18 to 70 and beyond," to motivate them for the busy day. "I tell them this one is different," he says. "I tell them I've done every big event, and this is a once-in-a-career opportunity."

The long hours will be even longer because of tight security. Workers will park at one of two outside lots, board shuttle buses to the National Football League's staff check-in area a couple of miles from the stadium, then be bused to the stadium.

Even with the extra shuffling around, many are looking forward to their Super Sunday shifts.

Rodney Godwin, 27, a catering busser who will carry food from the kitchen to the press box, says his friends consider him lucky, and his mom is excited.

The Paterson, N.J., resident says he's prepared for "a pretty long shift."

"More than likely, I'll be here all day -- before the game, throughout the game and after the game," he says. "It'll be a lot of walking, running and sprinting. But I'm up for it."

Stacey Straz, 41, of Watchung, N.J., is "thrilled" she'll be tending bar at one of the biggest sporting events of the year. In December, Straz replied to a Craigslist ad for a bartender for an unspecified large event -- and happily was hired by a staffing agency to work at the Super Bowl.

Fifteen-year stadium employee and game-day cashier Therese Samuels, 56, of Jersey City, says, "Nothing can compare to the Super Bowl. This is a one-in-a-lifetime wonderful opportunity."

Leigh Weiss, a part-time emergency medical technician, is ready for a long day, too.

He's spent 22 years with the medical department at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, which includes MetLife Stadium, and says, "I've seen everything that you can imagine and then some."

Working concerts and sports events, he's dealt with "drunks and drugs," among other things, and can have 100 to 200 calls on any given day. But he thinks Super Bowl Sunday will be quieter than normal.

Most ticket holders aren't likely to go to overboard, he says. "They're coming to watch the game and enjoy the day."

Working this game is particularly meaningful for food service manager Ralph Trauerts, 67, who wasn't sure he'd be alive for Super Bowl XLVIII. He was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus two years ago and given a life expectancy of two years.

"I told my oncologist last February, 'You've got to keep me alive to get me to the Super Bowl,'" Trauerts says. "And he did."

The Union City, N.J., resident has lined up a sitter for his dog and moved his chemotherapy appointment, which he gets every two weeks, to the week after the game so he won't have to deal with side effects while on duty.

He plans to get a good night's sleep Saturday but says adrenaline will keep him going.

"I get ramped up," he says. "And I don't recognize that the hours are going by."

Working the Big Game can mean big tips. There's also an enhanced paycheck for those who earn overtime. At least 2,000 workers are represented by the Unite Here Local 100 union, says lead organizer Juan Galan. Some will make an hourly wage. Others get a percentage of the stadium's service charge or make a commission on what they sell.

Beyond pay, the NFL hopes that the rare opportunity to work a Super Bowl will motivate workers. At a Jan. 16 pep rally for game-day workers, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the crowd, "You're going to be a part of history."

"The NFL is trying to rev everybody up and get them pumped and excited," says food service manager Trauerts.

He doesn't need that extra push.

"I'm already pumped and excited," he says. Now that he'll make it to the Super Bowl, he's planning ahead for games and events to work this spring.

He celebrated his 67th birthday on Jan. 21, and is optimistic for the longer term.

"Now I'm looking at 361 days to maybe have another birthday, and I may just make it," he said on Sunday. "I think it's going well."


January 30, 2014


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