By DAVID PORTER, Associated Press
Fans play an interactive video game outside MetLife Stadium before the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl in the nation's most congested region confounded skeptics on the first count, as unseasonably warm temperatures served as a pleasant backdrop for Sunday's NFL title game. But long delays leaving MetLife Stadium for the thousands who heeded organizers' advice and took mass transit left a sour taste.
Organizers had dubbed the game the first mass-transit Super Bowl and spent considerable effort urging fans to take trains or buses to the stadium. The message apparently took hold, as nearly 28,000 rode the rails from nearby Secaucus Junction. That far surpassed New Jersey Transit's previous record of 22,000 riders in 2009 for a U2 concert, and nearly doubled optimistic pre-game estimates of 15,000.
After Sunday's game, fans converged on the rail station for the return trip, clogging the platform as trains loaded and left when full. The agency eventually opened a second platform to accommodate the overflow crowd. It finally took NJ Transit bringing in more than 50 buses to shuttle fans to the Port Authority terminal in New York City — almost two hours after Seattle completed its 43-8 victory over Denver — to eliminate the long delays at the stadium area.
A NJ Transit spokesman told The Associated Press early Monday that nearly 25,000 passengers had been moved to Secaucus by midnight, two hours after the game, and that overall it was a "tremendous success," considering the volume of passengers transported without accident or incident.
When the last train cleared the platform at 12:45 a.m., 32,900 people had been transported by rail and more than 1,100 others taken by bus to Port Authority, a transit spokesman said.
Seattle natives Jeff Chapman, 40, and his childhood friend Willie Whitmore, 39, were caught up in the delay and anxious to get home.
"This is a joke," griped Chapman, an engineer. "We're not even from here and we could've told you this would've happened."
"What do you expect when you don't give people any other option to get home," added Whitmore, a project manager. "It's ridiculous."
At MetLife, an announcement on the scoreboard asked fans to please stay in the stadium due to congestion at the platform. New Jersey State Police urged fans via Twitter to "enjoy the stadium atmosphere until congestion dissipates."
Dan Steidl, 27, from Green Bay, Wis., was waiting for 45 minutes with very little movement.
"This is terrible," he said. "I'm ready to get out of here but I don't know when that'll happen."
The rest of the festivities went off without a hitch. Many fans clad in Seahawks blue and green and Broncos orange shed their winter coats and posed in shirt sleeves next to ice sculptures on the MetLife Stadium grounds before Sunday night's game. It was a scene organizers who convinced enough NFL owners in 2010 to vote to hold the game here likely didn't dare dream would happen.
"This is amazing," said Molly Boyle, 27, a Seattle fan who lives in New York City. "I couldn't wish for a better ending for our team."
Meanwhile, Denver fans were sulking. Many left before the beginning of the fourth quarter when the Seahawks' lead became insurmountable. By the end of the game, there were barely any orange jerseys left in the stadium.
Sean Doyle, 42, an attorney from Denver, left after the third quarter and went shopping for souvenirs with his wife.
"I'm extremely disappointed," he said. "I gave up hope."
Earlier in the day, security was slow at train stations, but by 5:15 p.m., a little more than an hour before kickoff, 80,000 folks had already made it into the stadium. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said it was the earliest arriving Super Bowl crowd in at least 30 years.