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ESPN says Sundance Square shows will go on, despite bitter cold forecast

Posted Monday, Jan. 31, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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From all appearances in downtown Fort Worth on Sunday, Super Bowl week had already started.

Visitors, some wearing Pittsburgh Steelers jerseys, others in Green Bay Packers gear, roamed through Sundance Square taking photographs, reading names inscribed on the Cradle of Champions sculpture and watching ESPN crews put the finishing touches on TV and radio stages.

A Jumbotron was showing skiing from the 2011 Winter X Games, which may be foreshadowing what's in store for North Texas on Tuesday.

But the prospect of the dreaded "wintry mix," with a few days of frigid temperatures as low as XII degrees, is not dampening the enthusiasm of visitors or locals.

"When I checked into my hotel, it was busy, and I could feel the vibe downtown," said Trey Wingo, an ESPN SportsCenter anchor who was born in Greenwich, Conn., but attended Baylor and has relatives in North Texas.

"I remember winters when it seemed like it was 80 degrees all the time," he said, "and also my freshman year (in Waco) when we had eight inches of snow."

The forecast of a possible ice storm on Tuesday is the elephant in the room for Super Bowl planners and ESPN, which kicks off 80 hours of live broadcasting from Sundance Square at 5 a.m. Monday with Mike & Mike in the Morning.

Stephanie Druley, a senior coordinating producer at ESPN, reiterated that the shows will go on, even in freezing precipitation and bone-chilling cold.

"We'll have heaters and electric blankets and told everyone to bring layers," she said. "The [weather] the past few days has been quite a tease."

Tracy Gilmour, marketing director of Sundance Square Management, said Sundance has its own equipment and ice-melting materials to ensure that people can get around.

Only lightning would prompt ESPN to cancel live programming and send it back to Bristol, Conn., the network's headquarters.

Druley said her biggest concern is that ice and extreme cold might keep people away from Sundance Square, although visitors from Pittsburgh and Green Bay should feel right at home.

Mike Feinberg, the studio director, and Druley have marveled at the attention ESPN has received from people watching the stages being constructed and other preparations.

"There are people taking pictures of nothing," Druley said, "but that's good."

The radio stage is the most exposed, she said, which will not be music to the ears of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, who will be needing those electric blankets and more by Wednesday morning's broadcast.

The overnight forecast Tuesday includes lows around 15 degrees and northwest winds at 20 to 30 mph, which would drop the wind chill below zero.

"It can get uncomfortable," Wingo said. "When I saw the forecast I packed two V-neck cashmere sweaters that will fit under my (suit) jacket, and my dress gloves."

Still, he said that the record-breaking snowfall in the Northeast -- or "Snowmageddon," as he called it -- will make the ice and cold the equivalent of a bump in the road.

Pete Alfano, 817-390-7985

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A beautiful night in Sundance Square

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