By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - It would have to be the blizzard of the century but a wicked enough storm could shift the date of Super Bowl XLVIII, slated for February 2 at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium, game officials said on Wednesday.
Although the National Football League's annual championship game has been held in northern cities in the past, this will be the first game to be played outdoors in a cold-weather venue. To pull it off, the league waived its rule that the average February temperature in the host city be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
East Rutherford in northern New Jersey, the site of the open-air stadium, gets an average of 2.2 inches of snow in the first week of February, meteorologists said on AccuWeather.com. Over the last decade, temperatures for February 2 have ranged from lows in the teens to highs in the low 50s.
A playbook for the removal of gargantuan amounts of snow was unveiled by Frank Supovitz, the NFL's senior vice president of events, game organizers, and New York and New Jersey transportation officials at a press conference on Wednesday.
Preparations for what is touted as the coldest Super Bowl in history include some 1,600 stadium staff, double the usual number, on duty on game night. Snow chutes built into the stadium seating area will funnel falling flakes into snow melters that can consume up to 600 tons an hour. And, 821 trucks will be ready to plow roads within a 30-mile radius and scatter nearly 60,000 tons of salt.
In the case of truly dire weather, the game expected to draw 80,000 fans to the stadium could be brought forward or postponed a day or two, Supovitz said. Such contingency plans are in place for every NFL game, with the decision made closer to the date, after discussions with local and state authorities.
Still, organizers said a photogenic dusting of snow would be welcome at the stadium, which opened in 2010 and is home to the New York Giants and the New York Jets.
"A little bit of snow during the game would make it all that much more historical and all that much more romantic and all that much more competitive and fun - and all that much more visual," Supovitz said.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg)