Crews hard at work preparing stadium for Super Bowl
HOUSTON (AP) A crew of four men worked on the painstaking process of painting the New England Patriots logo on one end zone on Tuesday afternoon at NRG Stadium for the Super Bowl.
The group provided a small glimpse into the hundreds of hours of preparation that will go into getting the home of the Houston Texans ready for the Patriots to meet the Atlanta Falcons in the Feb. 5 game.
Exactly how much time and how many workers it takes to get things in tip-top shape for such an event is impossible to estimate.
''It's more than I can even count,'' NFL director of events Eric Finkelstein said. ''It's a very long process. The amount of prep and time it takes to get the Super Bowl ready in general is something that takes years. It's not something that happens overnight.''
Finkelstein said there aren't any special challenges to preparing the stadium this season and the location of NRG actually made things a bit easier.
''Every year is going to be different and you're going to have different challenges and different opportunities that you're dealing with,'' he said.
''Here the space is very flexible. It gives us an opportunity to do a lot of different things. There's a lot of room here, a lot of parking, lots of areas to build things that you don't necessarily have in other markets. So it gives us a great opportunity to put together a great Super Bowl.''
Of the countless tasks that must be handled before kickoff, perhaps none is more important than getting the field into perfect condition.
The game will be played on the artificial turf that the Texans played on all season. The only pieces that have been replaced are the two end zones and the section where the 50-yard line is.
Those changes were made so the NFL could replace the Texans logos with those of the Falcons, Patriots and the Super Bowl.
It's not simply about things looking nice - getting everything on the field just right is a major undertaking.
''It's got an in-field system in it which is sand and rubber,'' NFL field director Ed Mangan said.
''Making sure that those two are coordinated in the proper amounts, the proper softness, working with concussion statistics and getting the field ... to sound at the right numbers. Low numbers obviously, so that if you fall on it and hit your head things rebound.
''Those are the perfect numbers that we're looking for. Making sure the seams are right, no trip hazards and of course making sure the artwork looks good.''
Mangan, who is working his 27th Super Bowl, is known as a perfectionist and personally inspects every step of the field preparations to make sure they're up to his high standards.
''He definitely takes extra special care,'' Finkelstein said. ''This is the biggest game of the year, so we need the field to be perfect in every way shape and form to make sure that it contributes to a tremendous matchup.''
Mangan is not only tasked with preparing the playing surface for the game, but also must get the practice fields at Rice University and the University of Houston ready for the teams to practice on during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
Finkelstein said that preparations are on schedule, but that they'll still be putting on the final touches right up to game day.
Mangan aims to have the first coat on everything by this weekend, but said that his crew will be finishing little things as late as the day before the game.
The NFL won't make a final determination if the retractable roof of the stadium will be open or closed for the game until a day before, so the crew has been alternating whether it's open or closed daily.
It was closed on Tuesday afternoon as temperatures in Houston soared into the low 80s. But it's unlikely that it will be closed on game day.
''If the weather cooperates with us - which we hope it does - the roof will be open,'' Finkelstein said.
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL