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Thousands of passengers in New Jersey waited hours to get on trains to and from the Super Bowl on Sunday, with hundreds left waiting in the rain at MetLife Stadium more than two hours after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 43-8.
The NFL and the Super Bowl host committee said they would review the issue after train ridership wildly exceeded pregame estimates. But host committee President Al Kelly said he was very pleased overall with the first open-air Super Bowl to take place in a cold-winter region.
"It was enormously successful and fully embraced by people at every level," Kelly told USA TODAY Sports on Monday.
Kelly said the train passengers were rightly frustrated by the delays to and from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The game's organizers had estimated 12,000 to 15,000 passengers would use New Jersey trains. In reality, that number was nearly 28,000 more than an hour before kickoff, causing crowds to swell at Secaucus Junction, where fans complained of stifling heat and long waits through security. After the game, the congestion got so bad the public-address announcer at the stadium asked fans to stay put until further notice. The game ended at about 9:55 p.m. ET, but many weren't able to leave until after 12:30 a.m.
NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman said the train issue would be a lesson learned: "We had lots of plans for all things we couldn't control related to weather. Next time we will have lots of plans for all the things ... related to transportation."
The host committee urged fans to use mass transit largely because of the lack of parking at the stadium. Out of the normal 28,000 spaces, about 10,000 were available because of additional media and security requirements for the Super Bowl. Kelly said fewer fans than expected came by car, with train ridership boosted to historic levels.
Tommy Skul, a Broncos fan from Arvada, Colo., planned to ask for his money back after waiting for a train at the stadium after midnight. He said he was given a travel packet that said the only way to get to the game was via bus or train.
"But the buses were all sold out," Skul told USA TODAY Sports. "This was literally our only way of getting down here, based on the information given."
It was the only apparent big glitch for the game, which required coordination by government agencies in New York and New Jersey. The game and practice facilities were in New Jersey, the fan festivities in Manhattan.
"The overarching challenge was the large geographic footprint of the region ... complicated by the fact it was split across two states that are separated by a river," Kelly said. "But I feel ... we were successful in creating a good balance on both sides of the Hudson River."
Does that mean the New York area wants another Super Bowl sometime soon? Kelly said that's up to the owners of the New York Jets and Giants. In the meantime, the NFL said it planned to learn from what happened. Next year's game is in Glendale, Ariz.
"We've got a couple of things that we will review and obviously try to improve on," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday.
Bill Smith, a spokesman for NJ Transit, said the previous record for passengers through Secaucus Junction was 22,000 for a U2 concert in 2009.
"We transported a record 33,017 customers by train last evening from the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium -- a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that this was a level-one security event with the additional security measures that entails," Smith said in a statement. "This constituted more than 40% of the announced attendance of 82,529."
He noted all passengers were moved safely and without incident and said the 21/2-hour wait after the game was in line with projections. One lesson learned is to bring in more buses next time.
"We are getting pretty good at contingency planning," Grubman said. "We need to put more elements into that contingency planning."