By Rick Freeman The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - Workers hung in harnesses, putting the finishing touches on a sponsor's billboard high above Broadway. A few blocks north, in Times Square, a three-story stage festooned with Fox Sports logos towered over the crossroads of the world.
Below, the pedestrian plazas stayed relatively calm and uncrowded -- for now -- beneath blinking ads, most of which referenced the Super Bowl as New York spent a mellow MLK Monday preparing to host the biggest event in sports.
The Feb. 2 championship game, between Seattle and Denver, is still almost two weeks away, and while there will be all sorts of events surrounding the game throughout the metropolitan area of nearly 20 million, the anticipation hasn't quite started to spike yet.
It takes more than a big ballgame to get New York City excited.
New Jersey, too, where everyone's still steamed up over allegations that top aides to Gov. Chris Christie orchestrated traffic jams in a northern New Jersey town, Fort Lee, by blocking off lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
Unintentional traffic jams are a concern every day in the region, let alone with an influx of visitors expected and a big game day crowd anticipated at the Meadowlands sports complex.
Crowding in Times Square is always a given, too. To the point that New Yorkers make a point of avoiding the area at all costs.
But on Monday -- with most people off from work for the Martin Luther King holiday and the Broncos and Seahawks basking in their conference championships back at home -- most of midtown was calm.
One pocket of energy could be found in Macy's, where a temporary NFL store is set up to sell tiny Statues of Liberty splashed with Super Bowl logos, NFL shield hats in various colors, helmets in every size from "big enough to protect a golf ball" to the real thing, and virtually anything else NFL-related.
Next week is when Broadway turns into a fan fest, concerts happen in all five boroughs -- as well as New Jersey, where the game will actually be played -- and LeBron James and the Heat take a rare undercard role when they visit Madison Square Garden and the Knicks.
Monday afternoon, though, workers and security guards outnumbered customers.
Imani Williamson tossed a miniature football in the air to herself and beamed at visitors as they entered Macy's. When it gets busier later, her job will be to greet fans, ask where they're from, and make them feel welcome.
Asked if she had seen any crowds yet, the 22-year old ringer on temporary Super Bowl duty said "No, not yet."
Deeper in the store, Julie Maner commanded a well trafficked corner where whimsical, cartoonish Super Bowl posters by pop artist Charles Fazzino were on sale. She has gone to every Super Bowl since the 2003 game in San Diego representing the artist.
Usually, she says, she has a booth at the NFL Experience, a fan expo that has been modified for the New York game. Most of that event's activities will be relocated to Broadway as part of the league's "Super Bowl Boulevard" sending retailers indoors to Macy's.
Maner wasn't sure if that would help or hurt sales, but she will have more days to sell the posters, 3D decorated helmets and other works by Fazzino -- some of which cost almost as much as game tickets. On Monday, she had just sold a poster to a German couple who wanted a souvenir before returning home, but was expecting to do most of her business next week.
"The out-of-towners don't come until next week," Maner said. "I don't know if it's going to be busier than usual or lighter than usual."
A lot of that could hinge on the weather. A winter storm was in the forecast for Tuesday night, followed by high temperatures below freezing. If the weather is more pedestrian friendly next week, crowds could come out in force on Broadway. When the "Boulevard" opens, it'll feature a concert stage, a place for fans to try kicking field goals, a toboggan run, a ticket exchange for buying and selling game tickets and (of course) sponsor come-ons.
That won't be open until Wednesday, though. On Monday, the signs of the big game were fewer and farther between. Two visitors from Montreal sat outside Macy's front entrance in chairs, shopping bags at their feet. One of them, Patricia Souza, described herself as a fan of her hometown Alouettes from the CFL, but planned to watch the Super Bowl.
She said she knew the Super Bowl was coming to New York even as they planned their trip. Her friend, who would only give her name as Melissa, hadn't noticed the hype yet.
"I had no idea," she said.
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