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New Orleans is for Sports Lovers

In this GoNOLA Radio New Orleans podcast episode, guest Jay Cicero of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation talks Super Bowl and why New Orleans is a sports town.

The “big game” is quickly approaching and before we know it, New Orleans will be full of sports fans from all over for the 47th Super Bowl in the Merecedes-Benz Superdome.  If you’ve been to the Super Bowl in a different host city before, you’ll soon find out we do things a bit differently around here. As Mikko puts it, the Super Bowl just lives better in New Orleans and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation is working hard to ensure the tenth Super Bowl in New Orleans will be the best one yet. That won’t be hard with the Verizon Super Bowl Boulevard extravaganza in Woldenberg Park featuring New Orleans music, food and culture and a special arrival of this year’s roman numerals, which you’ll hear about in this episode.

Aside from securing the Super Bowl every other year or so, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation is also instrumental in other sporting events throughout the city and Jay Cicero, President and CEO, is here to tell us all about it and give us a behind the scenes look on what it takes to secure these events for New Orleans, and it’s not just our infinite charm. In addition to all of the foundation’s host events, including this year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four, the Sugar Bowl, The Zurich Classic, and the Bayou Classic also come to New Orleans ever year.

To hear about all about the Super Bowl, Cicero’s love for the Dome Dog, and information on local sporting events in New Orleans, listen to this episode of GoNOLA Radio!

GoNOLA Radio is a free New Orleans podcast hosted by Mikko, Lorin Gaudin and  George Ingmire about the food, music and culture of the Crescent City. Subscribe to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes or download to your mobile device on Stitcher. GoNOLA Radio features music by Cale Pellick.

Podcast Transcript:

Sanpa Barnes: Welcome to Go NOLA Radio. My name is Sanpa Barnes and I will
be your host of hosts, as we explore New Orleans and learn about the city’s
rich cultural heritage, food, and music. We bring you experts, the real
deal experts, who will talk with you about the people who make New Orleans
such a wonderful place to live and visit. Its Go NOLA Radio.

Miko: Every year we have this little football game called the Super Bowl
and whenever it’s not in New Orleans, like when it’s in Detroit, you’ll see
them do a little spot on the news. “I’m standing at Pat O’Brien’s North” or
when they do it in San Diego they say, “We’re standing here on Bourbon
Street West.” Okay, we call it the Super Dome, because the Super Bowl
belongs in New Orleans. Welcome, everybody to our show today. We have
George Ingmire our musical expert.

George: Hello.

Miko: Lauren Goden could not be here today, so we’re going to have to hold
up the food end on our own and we have a very special guest today, Mr. Jay
Cicero from the greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, who among the many
things that they do is responsible for making sure the Super Bowl feels at
home in New Orleans. Welcome Jay, thank you.

Jay: Thanks for having me.

Miko: Do you share my opinion that the Super Bowl just lives in New Orleans
so much better than anywhere?

Jay: Absolutely, we love for it to be here every two years. Not every year,
every two years.

Miko: Okay, share it with someone.

Jay: We share it out a little bit, but actually we’re hosting our record
10th Super Bowl in a month.

Miko: Only Miami, and us have ever had it that much.

Jay: That’s exactly right and if we do a good job, which we know we are.
And New Orleaneans turn on their charm, which we know they will, and
everybody treats the team and the commissioner in a respectful manner,
which we know they will, also.

Miko: We hope.

Jay: Then we think we can set ourselves up for an 11th Super Bowl, which
we’re trying to bid for 2018.

Miko: Is this a scoop?

Jay: It’s kind of a scoop for 2018, which would be during our 300th
anniversary celebration of New Orleans, so that’s kind of our master plan.

Miko: Excellent. Well, the city is really spiffing itself up. The city’s
really looking good. I think they’re going to put their best face forward.
When you put together, I guess how does it work when you approach Super
Bowl people or the NFL or whoever else is involved? Are you like right
there kind of pitching up against other cities and stuff like that or are
you just kind of coming in and saying, “All right guys. We know this is
going to happen, what do you want from us? This is what we can do for you.”

Jay: It’s a definite competitive bid process and that’s where the Sports
Foundation comes into play. We’ve been around now since 1988 and this is
our third Super Bowl to serve as the host committee staff. So it’s our job
to go, put together the bids and we work very closely with the New Orleans
Saints on this bid.

Miko: It seems Super Bowl is expanding. I remember back the last one they
had like sort of a tent village over on South Peter Street, but now it
seems like they’re going to do something along the river? Could you talk
about that a little?

Jay: We are. The Super Bowl Host Committee, our organization is taking on a
very large responsibility and we’ve created something called Super Bowl
Boulevard. Verizon has actually come on as the sponsor for it, but I’m
working directly with Quint Davis and Festival Productions.

Miko: The Jazz Festival genius.

Jay: His entire staff is on this and it’s more of a Boardwalk mentality. So
if you picture what’s happening along the river at Jackson Square. CBS has
five sets and they’re shooting seven shows, 49-hours of live broadcast the
entire week. Then you come to Jack’s Brewery parking lot, ESPN’s going to
have three sets with 150 hours of live broadcast all week and you come over
to Woldenberg Park where Super Bowl Boulevard’s going to live. You’ve got
the NFL network, and NBC are going to be broadcasting from there all week.

So this is a four-day festival, Super Bowl Boulevard that will be New
Orleans music, New Orleans food, New Orleans culture. There’s going to be a
large set of Roman numerals that have been created, since our last Super
Bowl and they get bigger every year, with every Roman numeral that’s added
to it, but they’re actually going to be on a barge in the river. There’s
going to be the arrival of the numerals, as a ceremony.

Miko: Great, which you know now will be a tradition.

Jay: It will. It absolutely is and now on the side of those Roman numerals
is broadcast the NFL films video with their music, so we’ve got four stages
with Quint’s touch on all of these stages. Four stages of music, with music
and food spread throughout Super Bowl Boulevard. A lot of sponsor
engagement from the NFL along with it.

Miko: That’s excellent. Well, we can talk about the Super Bowl for 50
hours, but New Orleans is not just restricted to the Super Bowl, that we
get every few years thanks to your efforts. There are other things. I know
that the foundation is instrumental in the New Orleans Bowl. How did that
go this year?

Jay: It went great, a record attendance, 48,000. Louisiana, Lafayette. The
Ragin’ Cajuns brought 30,000 people to town.

Miko: So let’s bring them back next year, make sure their team wins.

Jay: Well, we had them last year. We have them this year, so if they get to
six or seven wins, we might be able to pull it off again.

Miko: And also the ladies are coming to town for basketball this year.

Jay: Yeah, for the third time the NCAA Women’s Final Four is returning to
New Orleans. It will be in the New Orleans Arena the first weekend in April
and a tradition, great event, a big event here. Bigger than life, like we
like to say, as far as these events are concerned. They have a huge
convention that comes along with it, of all the coaches from around the
country. I think there’s only like 2,000 tickets left for that event.

Miko: What other projects are you looking at, as if you needed any more
with what you…?

Jay: Well, we’re working on a number of different events. We’re trying to
get this big event cycle back again for 2017 and ’18. We, in our master
plan, 2017 would be the Men’s Final Four returning. It’s not available until
then and in 2018 would be the Super Bowl.

Miko: George, do you golf?

George: No.

Miko: You’re wearing a golfing hat.

George: That’s not a golfing hat.

Miko: The reason why I bring it up is because we also have the Zurich
Classic here, which I predict Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy will have a
seven-hole playoff. It’ll be the most exciting tournament of the year.

But that comes in April. It’s another major sporting event that comes to
New Orleans. New Orleans, I always said it’s a small town with a big name
and people like coming here.

Jay: They love New Orleans. There’s no doubt about that. You still have to
remain competitive in order to get these events and a lot of cities are
going, how does New Orleans do it? How do you keep getting these events?

And it really takes a full-time effort. You know the Zurich Classic has
been around 40 years or so, maybe 50 years now, but it takes a full time
effort to maintain, to fund raise, to keep these events first and foremost
in people’s minds here in New Orleans.

Miko: You know we have other things going on here. I mean there’s been
horse racing here, ever since the French got off the boat in New Orleans, I
mean they love their horses here. Do you ever go out to the track?

George: Yeah, actually the first time I wore this hat was at the track.

Miko: Oh, there you go.

George: See, there’s the connection. No, actually I love going to the horse
races, just for the spectacle of it. It’s something to be said and I was
always thinking about the food outside the gates. There’s something
about just walking down street, not even necessarily going to the game, but
just smelling all the great food that’s cooking and people don’t mess
around here. You know it’s not just like hot dogs and hamburgers.

People are doing gigantic vats of jambalaya and they’re grilling oysters
and what not. I think we do everything in grand style here, so it takes a
lot of effort on your part and your organization’s part, which is really
commendable. Because we kind of take for granted that our charm alone is
doing it, but it’s obviously still a lot of work. But once you get them
here, they’re happy they made that decision, it’s the food and the music
and overall experience.

You talked about us turning on our charm. I was about to say I don’t think
we ever turn it off. I think no matter what, you come to New Orleans, and
you’re really welcomed. It’s a natural happiness that we have here and we
want to share everything there is about New Orleans with you, and
everything there is about Louisiana, because the seafood is still amazing.
We continue to do great food and we’ll grill burgers and everything else,
but they’re going to be a little spicier. We’re actually going to give a
little more character to what we’re doing here.

Miko: Absolutely, and the restaurants, of course, all over the place run
these special Super Bowl things. The Ritz was kind enough to send over what
they’re doing. It’s very tempting. They’re having the Fourth-Down French
toast. You know they’re going to have special breakfast, because Super Bowl
itself for you, it’s a three and a half year process to get it here, but to
actually go to the game it’s an all-day thing. You’ve got to get up early
in the morning and get that Mimosa down, before you start your day.

Jay: You better pace yourself. It’s like Mardi Gras day, you had better
pace yourself.

Miko: Because the game doesn’t start ’til? What times kickoff?

Jay: Its 5:35, so people are starting off early in the morning and 5:35,
and the game is not a three, three and a half hours like a Saints game. Its
four-four and half hours, because of the TV commercials and everything else
associated with it, and there’s a long halftime show, because huge
entertainment, of course, associated with that. But it’s an event that
we’re delighted to have here.

Miko: I’m sure you’ve been in the Super Dome, the Mercedes Benz Super Dome
a couple of times in your life.

Jay: A couple

Miko: What do you like to eat when you go there?

Jay: Well, last Sunday I had my favorite Dome dog and popcorn and a beer. I
just like the regular food there. My son ate the jambalaya, which is always
good, but I just love to experience a Dome dog. I’ve worked in baseball. I
started the Zephyrs here back in 1993. So I ate enough dogs to last me 15
years and about three or four years ago, I started eating them again when I
went to games at the Dome.

Miko: An interesting thing, the game is about a week and a half off or so.
We don’t really know, but some clever guy or girl is going to be on Poydras
Street you know, with some unique little stand serving some kind of food
that’s amazing. What George was saying is that in New Orleans, the charm
never turns off, because there is someone out there thinking, “You know
what? I’m going to improve the slider or the hamburger or the…”

George: Yeah, we can’t forget that this is intertwined with the Mardi Gras
season, which makes all…

Miko: It’s right in the middle.

George: Like we’ve kind of opened up Mardi Gras another week, because we’re
accommodating the Super Bowl and extending our Carnival time.

Miko: The NFL has that power.

George: Well, let them, let them. We are the beneficiaries of that, but
there is all kinds of stuff going on, as people are coming in to town to
enjoy these events, and enjoy the Super Bowl in particular. They can also
enjoy parades and just the good life of the city, which it never goes away.
But this is a real important time. It’s going to be a real exciting Super

Jay: There’s no better place to be in those three weeks than New Orleans,
so I’m very happy to be involved with it and very happy to be here during
that time period, it’s going to be great.

Miko: Absolutely. One other sport, well there’s a couple I want to mention
The Roller Girls. Have you had the pleasure to see our roller derby team?

Jay: I’ve been chased by them.

Miko: Lucky boy.

Jay: Yeah, with wiffle ball bats, you know during the running of the bulls
in the summer? That’s really nice.

Miko: Did you let them catch you? That’s what the question is.

Jay: Maybe.

Miko: This is a family program, Jay.

Jay: Yes.

Miko: New Orleans, for those of us that, I have some friends frankly,
they’re not into like big sports. They’re not football fans, but they like
what they call sports in their athletic past times. I mean people are
kayaking over on the Bayou Saint John and paddle boarding. There’s a group
that does yoga on the paddle boards. Have you seen them on Bayou Saint

Jay: I’ve not seen that yet.

Miko: Talk about the most peaceful thing, because a New Orleans morning,
before the traffic on Wisner Boulevard, just going down the foggy little
bayou and you’re doing your asana position or whatever it is. I would fall
into the water.

George: That’s when it’s no longer peaceful. But yes, that’s great.

Miko: New Orleans, especially now with the change in nutritional values,
and things like that. People are becoming more aware of the value of being

George: I contend that New Orleans is one of the hardest working cities in
the country, even though we do it with joy, so it appears that we’re not
really working hard. But I think we’re all making great efforts, but having
a good time doing it, which is how you’re supposed to do it so. We manage
to exercise off all that good eating and drinking, because there’s a lot of
stuff to do that requires walking.

Jay: We do work hard and play hard, and I think that is the envy of the
rest of the world, that they look at us and I think that’s one of the
things that they like the most about us, is that we get things done, and we
do it in our own way, and it ends up being better than other cities and we
like that.

Miko: That’s great. Well Jay, thank you so much for being with us today.
Thank you for what you do. Your company, you go to the website. I think it
says right there on the front page, $25 million has been invested in what
you do and you’ve returned a billion, more than $1.0 billion to us.

I always make a ton of money at Super Bowl time, from the different things
that I do. So yeah, this is an important thing.

Jay: That’s good to hear.

Miko: And it’s a fun thing. Tom Brady’s going to win this year you can take
it from me. George, are you going to watch the game?

George: Of course, at home. Not at a bar, probably at home with tons of
good food.

Miko: And do you have a team that you’re particularly partial to or do you
just enjoy the contest?

George: All I’m going to say is that if the Falcons come here, we’re going
to treat them better than they treat us.

Miko: Oh, that’s absolutely true, absolutely true. Everyone will put on
their best welcome hats, no matter who comes. The Falcons or any other
rival that we have, it’s going to be great.

Jay: Ain’t nothing but a party, brah.

Miko: That’s right. All right, thank you Jay for being here, Jay Cicero,
from the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. George Ingmire our
musicologist, thanks for being with us today.

George: Always a pleasure.

Miko: Lauren Goden will be back in our next show.

George: We miss you Lauren.

Miko: Yeah, she has her new cookbook out, “New Orleans Chef’s Table.” It’s
organized by neighborhoods. It has photographs of New Orleans. It’s a very
personal document of good cooking in New Orleans and also it’s a good thing
to have in the kitchen. So wish the best to her. And I’m Miko and I’ll see
you at the game.

Jay: See you there.

Sanpa: Go NOLA radio is a production of New Orleans Tourism and Marketing
Corporation, in conjunction with FSC Interactive, music by Cale Pellet. My
name is Sanpa. Tune in next week by subscribing to Go NOLA radio on iTunes

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