Last year, the NFL played a team at its home stadium in a Super Bowl for the first time. On Sunday, the league will see another first that will delay some of its preparations for this year’s big game.
The NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers marks the first time a conference title game has been held at the Super Bowl site. Katie Keenan, the NFL’s senior director of event operations, said the league has prepared for this eventuality, but has delayed any work it can do inside SoFi Stadium.
“It sets us back a few weeks in some areas, but we’ve still been able to do a lot of the prep work that we started earlier in January,” Keenan said.
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made history last year for the Super Bowl, their three NFC playoff games were on the road. The Rams won the NFC West, which guaranteed them at least one postseason game.
The league began work at the Hollywood Park site on January 10, the day after the regular season. Some of the scaffolding work with tents and other hospitality areas was evident when the Rams hosted the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC wild card game on January 17.
More fence lines, auxiliary lighting and Super Bowl decor will be in place on Sunday, but the league and the Rams have worked together to ensure it won’t severely affect parking. Some of the hospitality facilities for the February 13 game are pre-fabricated and will be installed from Monday.
Most of the work inside the stadium will not start until Monday. Normally at this point the international broadcast booths and other media areas would be nearly installed, but this did not happen as it would involve the removal of some seats.
Keenan said some of the pre-wiring for these has been installed.
“When you have a five-week build pushed back to two weeks, there are just some things you need to start earlier,” she said.
Keenan also said his staff used Minnesota’s experiences four years ago to improve on emergency planning. In 2018, the Vikings played one home game in the Divisional Round, three weeks before the Super Bowl.
“This site is so large that we can build on campus. We’re getting better and better because it seems like the last few years the potential playoff team has been the host city for the Super Bowl,” she said.
“Starting in November, we started creating contingencies around each round. It’s no secret that the Championship Game scenario is the most difficult scenario because it obviously shortened everything.
The only advantage of SoFi Stadium is that it is an artificial surface, which means the league does not have to install new ground. Starting Monday, however, the NFL will have the building all to itself.
“It’s like putting a puzzle together because a lot of things that are related to SoFi and traditional Rams have to move and then all of our stuff has to move. It will be quite an orchestrated effort Monday morning when we can hit the ground running,” Keenan said.
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