The “Welcoming City” Opens Its Arms Wide and Greets Super Bowl Celebrants
By: Darwin Campbell, Senior Journalist
HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has dubbed Houston, a “Welcoming City” and that phrase will be put to the test as hundreds of thousands from all over the United States and from around the world and local neighborhoods pour into the Bayou City and downtown as Super Bowl LI fast approaches.
Awaiting visitors is a potpourri of events, parties, celebrations, vibrant night life destinations and tour opportunities.
“Houstonians love to show visitors a good time,” Turner said. “We are going to showcase our southern hospitality, our cultural diversity, our culinary delights, our beautiful downtown and everything else that makes Houston a forward-thinking destination for business or leisure travel.”
Houston has previously hosted Super Bowls in 1974 and 2004. This year, with it being the 51st Super Bowl, Houston considers itself as hosting the “first Super Bowl of the future.”
“We have to be prepared because all eyes will be on Houston,” Mayor Turner said. “… It will be a fantastic opportunity to reintroduce our great City to the rest of the world and we want to make a good impression.”
Super Bowl LI will bring 10 days of concerts, festivals, a big fan experience and other events all culminating in the big game February 5 at NRG Stadium.
Super Bowl For Houstonians
Kevin Cooper, Director of Media Relations for the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, said the goal is for Houstonians to come out, join the party and have fun with neighbors and friends and the fans from New England and Atlanta areas.
Cooper said with so much to do and so many great performances, there is something for everyone who visits.
“This is your Super Bowl Houston so come out here and have a good time,” Cooper said. “We have put our best foot forward and we encourage all Houstonians to come down, show our Southern hospitality and welcome our visitors and enjoy the celebrations.”
According to Cooper, the committee spent a great deal of time to promote the event leading up to the big game.
For the past several months, The Touchdown Tour was the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee’s traveling celebration of football. It traveled all over Houston throughout the fall, raising awareness and excitement in the community for upcoming Super Bowl LI, which will be played at NRG Stadium on Feb. 5, 2017. The Touchdown Tour offered a wide variety of games, many exhibits, appearances, food and fun for people of all ages all used to generate excitement for the big day.
Now, Cooper projects and expects over 1 million football fans to visit and take part in the 10-day Super Bowl LIVE fan festival.
Super Bowl LIVE
Anchoring this year’s celebrations that promises to be fun central for sports fans and families is Super Bowl Live events.
Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon is a free nine-day family-friendly fan festival in downtown Houston celebrating Super Bowl LI.
“We are pleased to partner with Verizon at Super Bowl Live,” Host Committee President and CEO Sallie Sargent said. “Super Bowl Live is a celebration of the city of Houston and all that it represents: inclusiveness, ingenuity, and the drive to always be great – the same traits shared by Verizon.”
From Discovery Green, it encompasses more than 750,000 square feet, approximately the size of 13 football fields to Root Square Park.
The free festival will include and features two concert stages, exhibits, live music and performances, interactive exhibits, great food and a 90-foot tall virtual reality trip to Mars.
The experience combines virtual reality and a drop tower to take passengers on a space flight to Mars and back. Built with the help of NASA and leading aerospace companies, Future Flight lifts riders in the air as they experience lift-off through virtual reality goggles. Riders will then land on the Red Planet, seeing actual footage from the surface of Mars, courtesy of NASA, before plunging from the top of the tower back to Earth, landing on the 50-yard line of NRG Stadium in time for Super Bowl LI.
“At Verizon, we are always focused on technology and innovation…,” said Kristin Rooney, Executive Director of Partnerships and Social Media at Verizon. “Visitors are going to be amazed by what they experience at Super Bowl Live, and we’re proud to play an important role.”
Super Bowl LIVE will be open to the public from January 28 to February 5 in Discovery Green. This free festival will include two concert stages, many exhibits and attractions.
Hours of operation:
|Saturday, January 28, 2017||10:00 am||11:00 pm|
|Sunday, January 29, 2017||10:00 am||9:00 pm|
|Monday, January 30, 2017||3:00 pm||9:00 pm|
|Tuesday, January 31, 2017||3:00 pm||9:00 pm|
|Wednesday, February 1, 2017||3:00 pm||11:00 pm|
|Thursday, February 2, 2017||3:00 pm||11:00 pm|
|Friday, February 3, 2017||10:00 am||11:00 pm|
|Saturday, February 4, 2017||10:00 am||11:00 pm|
|Sunday, February 5, 2017||10:00 am||3:00 pm|
Concert and Performances
Concert Lineup at Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon has strong Texas ties in every artist.
The artists, covering a wide range of styles and genres, share one common bond – all hail from the Lone Star State.
“Super Bowl LIVE is a celebration of football and the city of Houston,” Sargent said. “With so many performers from the Houston area and Texas, we believe we have accomplished this. This is an amazing lineup of performers that will entertain our guests at Super Bowl LIVE . I couldn’t be happier and I believe the audience will be extremely pleased as well.”
There will be two stages at Super Bowl LIVE with the main concert stage located in front of the Toyota Center in the city block bordered by LaBranch, Clay, Austin and Polk Streets.
The second stage will be located in Discovery Green, near the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Ryan Bingham, Blue October, Lecrae, Hayes Carll, Grupo Fantasmo and Los Skarnales are among the top names added to the list of performers.
Bingham, whose first two studio releases, Mescolito in 2007 and Roadhouse Sun in 2009 gained critical acclaim, earned an Oscar, Golden Globe, Critic’s Choice and Grammy Award for his song “The Weary Kind” in the film Crazy Heart.
The alternative rock group Blue October has been around more than 20 years and has had a host of hits through the years, including platinum singles “Hate Me” and “Into the Ocean” platinum album Foiled.
Christian hip hop performer and three-time Grammy winner Lecrae, who is also the co-owner, co-founder and president of the independent label Reach Records, has released seven albums as a solo artist.
In 2016, Lecrae signed to Colombia Records, which will release future recordings in conjunction with Reach.
He became the first hip hop artist to win the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album and first rapper to win the BET Award for Best Gospel Artist.
A 2016 Grammy Nominee for “Chances Are” performed by Lee Ann Womack, Hayes Carll earned Song of the Year from American Songwriter for “Another Like You” in 2011.
The Woodlands native is known for his simple prose and sarcastic wit in his songs.
The Grammy-winning Grupo Fantasmo has been praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre.
They have won more than a dozen American Music Awards and earned a Grammy with their album “El Existential”.
A legend in Houston, Los Skarnales was part of the inaugural class of the Houston Music Hall of Fame and has been performing to sellout audiences in the United States and Mexico for more than two decades.
Headlining artists for the final three nights of the event, include ZZ Top, Gary Clark Jr, Leon Bridges and Solange, as part of the countdown celebration.
Other artists added to the concert schedule are Nick Gaitan, Bright Light Social Hour, Sarah Jaffe, Walker Lukens and more than 40 other local and regional acts.
The entire concert schedule, including performance times and stages can be found on the Host Committee website at www.housuperbowl.com/super-bowl-live.
Super Bowl Halftime Show
Lady Gaga who has been confirmed and will be this year’s halftime entertainer.
A second great and memorable Super Bowl week experience is the NFL Experience.
It will be open to the public from Saturday, January 28 to Sunday, January 29 and Wednesday, February 1 to Sunday, February 5. at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
It is the 24th edition of NFL Experience and serves as Pro football’s interactive theme park offering fans a unique chance to get involved in the festivities surrounding Super Bowl LI with interactive games, youth football clinics, merchandise from NFL Shop presented by Visa, player autograph sessions and more.
“The NFL is very excited to bring NFL Experience Driven by Genesis to Houston. There is no better way for fans to experience the energy of Super Bowl Week than by visiting this ultimate NFL theme park,” said NFL Senior Vice President of Events Peter O’Reilly. “We have designed new games and attractions that will transport fans of all ages onto the field, under the helmet and closer to all of the fun and excitement surrounding Super Bowl LI.”
According to O’Reilly, this experience is special and memorable and offers fans a unique chance to get involved in the festivities surrounding Super Bowl LI, offering interactive games, youth football clinics, merchandise from NFL Shop presented by Visa, player autograph sessions and more.Tickets to NFL Experience Driven by Genesis can be purchased online exclusively through Ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $35.00 for adults and $25.00 for children 12 and under, and permit entry for a particular day and time. An NFLXtra Fast Pass may be purchased for $55.00.
Tickets are in high demand with thousands of fans expected to visit NFL Experience and take part in the excitement surrounding Super Bowl LI.
Cooper said that the NFL Experience Driven by Genesis, the hub of fan activity in Houston, provides visitors of all ages with the chance to participate in NFL-themed games and activities.
Fans can also test their football skills, view live game action using virtual reality technology, get a photo with the most prestigious trophy in sports, the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and take part in a range of other football-themed experiences, he added
Houston LIVE is a first-of-its-kind exhibit at the Super Bowl, that shares the history of and tells the story of Super Bowl LI’s host city. Houston LIVE was brought to life by sponsors of the Host Committee, focusing on key neighborhoods and themes to ‘Celebrate,’ ‘Inspire’ and ‘Energize.’ The custom space will also feature Houston-area performers throughout the event.
Taste of the NFL
You don’t want to miss the 26th Annual Taste of the NFL on Saturday, February 4th at the University of Houston. Enjoy a night of food, football and fun.
All proceeds of the event benefit the Houston Food Bank.
In 2017, Mayor Turner said sharing the Super Bowl will be easier than ever.
Reliant and its parent company NRG Energy, the namesake of NRG Stadium, have installed a dozen NRG Go stations across the facilities.
These stations each have 120 portable power chargers available for free on game days, so fans can grab a charger and keep using their phones to take action shots, share moments and keep connected. Additionally, the recently renovated George R. Brown Convention Center included upgrades to the wireless technology in and around that building. The GRB is part of the new Avenida Houston that will serve as headquarters for Super Bowl Live! Officials worked with the company Crown Castle International to dramatically improve the area’s connectivity through the use of small cell technology. That will allow the hundreds of thousands expected to visit the NFL Experience and Super Bowl Live! to share without a backup.
TRANSPORTATION TO DOWNTOWN
The Greater Houston area has been working diligently to create a safe and enjoyable experience for fans, according to Houston Super Bowl Host Committee Communications Coordinator Dolores Lozano.
Whether you’re here from out of town cheering on your favorite team, a local resident coming downtown for events or participating in other activities, shows and concerts, this guide is for you:
Drivers are encouraged to park on the West side of downtown Houston and shuttle or walk to Avenida Houston and Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon. Street closures may impact your commute on the East side of town.
To ensure the easiest path into downtown we have provided preferred entrance routes to downtown from every direction. Please note that certain exits, streets, and parking areas may not be available during special events downtown.
From the West
1-10 East to Smith Street
From the East
I-10 West to San Jacinto St.
I-45 North to Scott St/St. Joseph’s Pkwy
From the South
I-69 North to West Gray Street or
I-69 to Spur 527 and Louisiana Street
From The North
I-69 South to Jackson
Downtown Houston has more than 62,000 spots for Super Bowl-related events. We encourage fans to park on the west side of downtown to ride the Special Event Circulators to their destination. Certain lots may not be utilized in their normal capacity; therefore, we recommend planning ahead when deciding where to park. If you’re coming downtown during business hours (Monday-Friday), there will still be 12,000+ designated fan parking spots during that time.
Pre-Paid Parking App
Through the Host Committee website and the Fan Mobile Pass app, guests at any event in downtown Houston will be able to pre-purchase their parking spot at a guaranteed rate. The parking pass can be printed or scanned through the app providing turn by turn directions to the lots, giving peace of mind when navigating through Super Bowl events.
The Host Committee strongly encourages visitors to prepay for parking.
Rates listed are guaranteed for prepaid parking only and may vary when purchased at the location.
Parking in downtown Houston is easy and convenient. There are more than 1,000 street parking spaces available in three hour increments. There are three different ways to pay at the pay station:
- Pay-by-Plate: Enter your license plate number to pay
- Pay-by-Phone: Download the app PayByPhone or dial a toll-free number (877) 727-5953
- Pay-and-Display: Pay meter & display the receipt on your dashboard
Public transportation is recommended to access downtown Houston for Super Bowl related events. Through our partnership with METRO we have worked on extended event schedules, increased frequency, and additional circulators and shuttles.
Convenient, Reliable And Guaranteed Parking
If you plan to drive downtown, there are more than 62,000 parking spots available during peak event hours. However, we strongly encourage you to secure your parking in advance. Guarantee your spot in and around downtown Houston for all events by scrolling up to Downtown Event Parking or through the Fan Mobile Pass App.
Uber and Taxis
No matter where you’re headed, Uber connects you with a reliable ride in minutes. One tap and a car comes directly to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go, and payment is completely cashless. In addition to 24/7 pickups throughout the city, the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee has partnered with Uber to provide a designated pickup and drop-off zone around Super Bowl LIVE. The location is at the Super Bowl LIVE Welcome Center on Rusk Street between Crawford Street and Avenida de las Americas. New to Uber? Download the app and enter promo code HOU2017 to get your first ride free (up to $15).
BikeHouston will provide a bike valet at Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon to store your bike while you enjoy the festivities. The bike valet will be available during Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon operating hours and will be located on Caroline Street between Clay and Dallas Streets.
Super Bowl Sunday
Ticketholders have multiple options to get to NRG Park on game day. Parking passes are available, METRO will run modified schedules, and Uber/taxis will have designated drop-off areas. Fans are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy the Game Day Fan Plaza. Tickets are required for all NRG events on game day.
METRO will provide additional trains and buses with extended hours of operation. It is the most cost effective and convenient way to get downtown.
Uber is an easy way to request a reliable and affordable ride within minutes. The Uber mobile app connects riders with their ride and offers real-time tracking of their vehicle from start to finish. We have partnered with Uber to provide a designated pick-up and drop-off zone around Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon which will make the wait time and surge charging minimal. The location is at the Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon Welcome Center on Rusk Street between Crawford Street and Avenida de las Americas.
If you choose to take a taxicab to Super Bowl LI events there are numerous locations and areas to get picked up and dropped off. If you’re jumping from event to event in downtown, we are pleased to offer Six in the City – $6 taxicab rides anywhere downtown by any taxi company in Houston! Taxicab stands are located conveniently around downtown or find one on the City of Houston’s NEW rideshare app, ARRO.
Get to all Super Bowl events and see the City of Houston by bike, courtesy of Houston B-Cycle. This bikeshare program has partnered with BBVA Compass to provide free rides in downtown Houston during Super Bowl week, offering residents and visitors a choice of ecological and economical transportation. Click here for more details about the offer.
BikeHouston Bike Valet
Have your own bike and want to attend Super Bowl LI events? Ride down through the Bayou or one of many other trails leading to Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon. You can park your bike at our bike valet, courtesy of BikeHouston. The Bike Valet is located at Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon on Caroline Street between Clay and Dallas Streets and is open during posted Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon operating hours. For more information on BikeHouston, visit www.bikehouston.org
Sit back and relax while arriving or departing events, courtesy of local pedicabs. These certified vendors will be available on the north side of Discovery Green. Pedicabs will travel anywhere in the Central Business District.
“We strongly encourage the community will “Know Before You Go” during Super Bowl LI,” Lozano said “METRO is proud to be Connecting Communities to Super Bowl LI with extended hours of operation and additional trains and buses.”
Metro is prepared to move you to and from your event and it is the safest, most cost effective, and convenient way to get to Downtown Houston, she said.