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Nancy Smith

NFL's Super Clunker: Balmy Dallas

February 3, 2011 - 6:00pm

"No more about the beach weather in Florida," pleaded Steelers fan Monte Rafferty. "If you talk about that, I'm hanging up in your ear. ... My feet are frozen, I'm popping Alka Seltzer Cold Plus, I got cabin fever ...

"Do you know it hasn't been out of the 20s since we landed?"

The 40-year-old Pittsburgh native, for the last eight years a restaurant manager in Broward County, pulled his savings out of the bank and borrowed $8,000 from his brother to take his 16-year-old son to Super Bowl XLV.

This year the game is between the Raffertys' beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.

In frigid Dallas. On a week when the city is colder than Anchorage, Alaska, and not much brighter.

Dallas was virtually at a standstill Thursday night, wracked since Jan. 30 by the worst winter storm in the Big D in nearly 30 years. The storm coated the area with ice and plunged temperatures into the teens.

Worst of all, the traditional, weeklong pre-Super Bowl party is paralyzed like a possum in the passing lane. Around Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, wind chill readings hit the subzero mark. The area was preparing for more snow before the weekend.

Bad news for tourism officials in the Dallas-Arlington area, who reckon to lose as much as a third of the anticipated $202 million that visitors and the NFL are expected to spend during the week. The 150,000 visitors they anticipated showed up, but they aren't spending except inside their hotels. The venues for other activities -- the fairgrounds and parks and villages, and especially the tour buses -- are either too cold or too dangerous to party hardy.

"There's only so much that comes to mind to fill your time in Dallas," Mandy Beckwith said. The Wisconsin hairdresser and Packers fan said she arrived Tuesday morning and was bored by Wednesday afternoon.

"We didn't know what to do with ourselves in cold weather," she said in a phone interview from her hotel room. "This is like home weather, but we don't know the town. So my husband and I got a cab and saw where John F. Kennedy was shot.

"That didn't last long. There's only so many times you want to ride past the grassy knoll."

Meanwhile in sunny South Florida, temperatures are hitting 80 degrees, skies are clear, humidity is low and the beaches are doing a whale of a business.

Hector Alvarez, an assistant in Commissioner Roger Goodall's office, said the league has no way of evaluating how much better the South Florida economy might have fared this week had the game been played on the Miami Dolphins' home turf, Sun Life Stadium.

"Well, you can't even guess about these things," Alvarez said. "And the new Cowboys Stadium can handle 110,000 sitting and standing, where Sun Life's capacity is about 76,000."

Alvarez confirmed that Goodall is unlikely to grant South Florida another Super Bowl until it installs a retractable roof. He said the 2007 soaking fans in Miami Gardens got "just plain looked bad and really was bad."

"We want to showcase the best day in American sports with the very best conditions," Alvarez told Sunshine State News.

Absurd as the argument sounds today -- with the long, ill-timed, debilitatingly dreadful ice storm in Dallas -- the Big D and South Florida are both vying to be the selected Super Bowl site in 2015. The site is due to be chosen Sunday night.

Florida has time, but only just. The Dolphins say they want to give the stadium a partial roof, high-tech screens, lighting and 3,000 new premium seats.

Though Gov. Rick Scott has made it clear he does not support new taxes, there may be cause to work around money needed for stadium improvements. In a recent speech to local business leaders, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said that investing in stadium improvements would indeed be an investment, adding about $2.5 billion to the local economy through 2040.

Chris Postlewaite, member of one of the Miami groups hoping to put together a funding package for a Sun Life Stadium makeover and a Miami Beach Convention Center renovation, told Sunshine State News, "Our group is doing its best to educate legislators how important and doable it is to work out funding for these projects."

Sens. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and Rene Garcia, R-Miami, are sponsoring a bill that would allow the Miami-Dade County Commission to increase the hotel tax from 3 percent to 4 percent.

Meanwhile, Rafferty's wife Pepper is back in Hollywood, Fla.,padding around the backyard in a bathing suit and flipflops, talking on the cell phone to her imprisoned husband and son in Dallas.

"She's telling me Goodall was just on television promising the temperature is going up to 50 for the game," Monte Rafferty said. "Some good that's going to do us. We just lost a week and more than five grand.

"The icing on the cake will be if we lose to the Packers, too."

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Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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