Take a bow, New Orleans. You deserve it. The eyes of the world were on the Big Easy for a solid seven days, highlighting the area's unique culture and way of life. Super Bowl XLVII once again showed why the Crescent City is beloved globally.
It hasn't been easy for locals the past few weeks. We all have traffic stories and tales of inconvenience stemming from the city's sprint to finish the new streetcar line on Loyola Avenue and put the finishing touches on new lighting, street paving and beautification projects.
The truth is the city has never looked better. Louis Armstrong airport is the first stop for many out-of-town guests. As someone who uses the airport frequently, I can attest that the renovations, such as the new rental car garage, not only are welcome enhancements but also were badly needed. The baggage claim area no longer looks like a dungeon; it's been brightened with state-of-the-art LED lighting and new carpeting. Concourses also have been improved with landscaping, new furnishings and new places to grab a bite.
Downtown, Poydras Street and Loyola Avenue have gotten facelifts, including the Loyola streetcar, which passes in front of the year-old Hyatt Regency New Orleans that last week served as headquarters to the NFL. CBS and ESPN set up broadcast compounds in the French Quarter, taking care to design sets and signage that looked at home in the Vieux Carre. Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi River resembled a mini French Quarter Festival with stages featuring four days of local music — for free.
More than 5,000 media members from around the globe obtained credentials for the Super Bowl, and the media center at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center seemed like a United Nations meeting. I broadcasted from Radio Row in Hall H during the week and saw journalists from all over the world appearing to love every minute of being in the city. The Super Bowl Host Committee's plans proved successful as countless volunteers provided visitors with daily samples of jambalaya, gumbo and king cake — and even taught a few how to pinch the tails and suck the heads of crawfish. The committee also enlisted some of the city's top chefs to construct a 47-foot-long po-boy. The media party at Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World was a taste-of-the-town event with dozens of New Orleans chefs offering their signature dishes, several stages of live local music — and lots of Mardi Gras floats.
The Super Bowl is truly an EVENT, and some officials project its economic impact to be $439 million. Local companies have refurbished hotels, constructed sets, worked on beautification projects and provided food, beverages and manpower. Gambit showcased local businesses with a pub crawl through the Warehouse District for out-of-town media.
New Orleans has hosted 10 Super Bowls, and it's amazing to see how much the event grows from one Superdome Super Bowl to the next. The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, instrumental in getting the championship here, will get a brief respite before it gets to work on a proposal to host the 2018 Super Bowl. It will be presented to NFL owners in May 2014.
The Super Bowl and all the activities that surround it can't take place without countless hours of work by a range of local officials, residents — even you, the reader. We should all be proud of what the city presented to the world last week. Sure, the Super Bowl is about a football championship, but it's also about much more. For seven straight days the world watched New Orleans, learning about our struggles and triumphs, as well as the challenges that still lay ahead. They also saw firsthand the city's resiliency and joie de vivre that gets us through trying times.
It's about love. Out-of-towners no doubt will tell tales of full bellies and hangovers, but more important, their coverage will show the world our beautiful city and how lucky we are to call Louisiana home.