INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Normally, it’s the Rams House. This week, however, it’s moreso the NFL’s House.
SoFi Stadium will still be recognized by fans Rams’ home stadium, but the NFL is setting up the building so that it reflects the neutral nature of Super Bowl LVI as much as possible on Sunday.
“Everything in here that represents either the Chargers or the Rams or whatnot will be branded Super Bowl,” NFL Field Director Ed Mangan said during a press conference at the stadium on Tuesday. “So it becomes a neutral site. The same way with the field – any branding of the teams or the home team, whoever it may be. Now this year, it just happens to be the Rams. Last year, we had the same situation with Tampa. So we’ll turn this field into if somebody from outside came in here, they wouldn’t know who plays here on a full-time basis.”
The prep work began long before game week, of course.
Mangan said the they began putting the logistics together about two years ago – the design teams from the NFL as well as the teams teams with the populous to put together the logistics.
“And as you can see everything outside, this is such a small part of it,” Mangan said.
Mangan is part of a 45-person grounds crew ensuring the field is in pristine condition – 32 of which came from all over the United States to Los Angeles to help, while the other 13 are part of a crew led by field directors Colby Gardner and Myles Cook.
“There’s some pressure there and some angst because you don’t want to miss anything,” Mangan said. “Everything for this, it just needs to be perfect. And again, there’s only one field here and everybody wants a piece of it – pregame, halftime shows, postgame shows, award ceremonies, and everybody’s got to come out here and go through their operation just like we do. So getting everybody comfortable with their piece of their rehearsals or practices, whatnot, and then us having to do our thing. That’s kind of the logistical nightmare there – give everybody enough time out here, but yet we need enough time to prep it for gameday.”
Collectively, they’ve had to juggle a conference championship game also being played at the host site of the Super Bowl for the first time ever, but from a logistical standpoint, the only impact was pushing everything back “about a week,” according to Mangan. They were planning for it and ready for it if the opportunity arose, and it also helped that they could draw on their experience with the Buccaneers last year for implementing a plan.
Still, NFL VP of Live Event Production and Operations Jon Barker said having the NFC Championship game in the same building put them on a tight schedule. Adding to the logistical challenges as well is the fact that SoFi Stadium is still very much a relatively new building.
“As soon as the game was over, everybody moved out, we started to move in,” Barker said.
Throughout the planning for this event, the NFL was mindful of making sure the event reflected Los Angeles.
“It’s not the NFL dropping the Super Bowl in Los Angeles,” Barker said. “We have to make sure that this is Los Angeles’ Super Bowl, and we weave the fabric of this community and the culture and the soul into the entire game and the entire Super Bowl weekly planning process.”
That’s accomplished in part through working with the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission and the league’s Business Connect program, where the league works with local vendors to do everything from food and beverage to different build-outs, according to NFL Senior Director of Live Event Operations Katie Keenan.
“So that helps to bring the flavor of L.A. and all of the different parts and things that make L.A. special to the game,” Keenan said.
Come Sunday at 3:30 p.m. pacific time, Rams-Bengals will mark the culmination of a six-year process working with the city of Inglewood, city of Los Angeles and state of California to bring Super Bowl LVI to Southern California.
“This one of the world’s greatest sporting events being played in one of the world’s greatest stadium,” Barker said. “So we’re super excited to be here.”