Super Bowl's NFL Experience is bigger in Texas

DALLAS -- Credit Super Bowl XLV for a construction boom in North Texas.

Giant cranes loom outside Cowboys Stadium where colonies of workers are busy inside and out, giving the stadium a Super Bowl makeover. ESPN crews will be in downtown Fort Worth beginning Monday, building studio sets for the network's Super Bowl week broadcasts from Sundance Square.

And inside the Dallas Convention Center on Thursday, hundreds of workers continued the task of transforming five exhibition halls into the biggest NFL Experience in the 19-year history of the football interactive theme park.

The Experience is the biggest attraction for the average person. Many Super Bowl week events are either by information only or pricey.

Scoring a ticket to the game, for example, means parting with at least $2,000. The Playboy party lists tickets for $1,250, while theEvent with Prince and Erykah Badu at Reunion Arena, is a cool $1,500.

Most of these activities are for adults only, too.

But the NFL Experience is a family affair, with the young and young at heart having a chance to demonstrate their football skills, as well as attend clinics, autograph sessions and purchase merchandise of all 32 teams.

And at $25 a ticket for adults, $20 for those 12 and under, it's also affordable.

The Experience has become such an integral part of the Super Bowl that Frank Supovitz, the NFL's vice president of events, said that Super Bowl week actually kicks off Jan. 27, when the NFL Experience opens at 5 p.m.

On Thursday, NFL representative Jennifer Duncan gave print and broadcast media an informal tour of the space being dedicated to the NFL Experience. It encompasses five convention center exhibition halls, totaling 850,000 square feet of open space.

In keeping with the "everything is bigger in Texas" theme of this Super Bowl, it will be the biggest NFL Experience to date, with 75 interactive games and attractions.

"We're hoping to attract 250,000," Duncan said, "which would break the record of 200,000 attendees in Houston for the 2004 Super Bowl."

This also will be the longest running NFL Experience, spanning nine days, including Super Bowl Sunday.

One of the new attractions is called NFL Draft, where fans can walk up to a podium in a setting that replicates draft day, and pose with the jersey of their favorite team just like a No. 1 draft choice.

In the vast space where interactive games such as Quarterback Challenge are situated, video of cheering fans in stadiums will be projected on the walls, enabling participants to get a feel of what it's like to perform during a game.

Former and current NFL players will be on hand to sign autographs and demonstrate their interactive talents, and some will read stories to kids between the ages of 3-10 in the NFL Rush Zone, a separate area with games and events like Field Goal Challenge and Long Snap, aimed at the youngest fans.

Duncan said that, in keeping with First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to fight obesity among children, only healthy foods will be made available in the Rush Zone, which has a colorful mural on one wall depicting the Nickelodeon Network's Guardians of the Core cartoon characters, a football-themed show that is collaboration between the network and NFL.

The kids also will be able to attend minicamp, where they will run some of the drills teams employ.

And the best thing is that none of them will have to see the coach and bring their playbook.

Pete Alfano, 817-390-7985

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