Inside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, construction crews rushed to wrap the 850,000 square feet space that is the NFL Experience, the Super Bowl-driven football circus/playground tailored to its host city and football fans who likely didn't score a ticket to the big game. Among the dozens of peripheral Super Bowl fan activities, it's the NFL's trademark Super Bowl attraction, and it returns to New Orleans for the first time since 2002 — but it's a much different monster.
Occupying several halls inside the convention center, the NFL Experience for Super Bowl XLVII features "museum quality" exhibits, like team histories, a radio-room exhibit of "great calls in NFL history," locker room simulations, and items on loan from the NFL Pro Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio — the first time the NFL has hosted a Hall of Fame installation at the NFL Experience. It will also host NFC and AFC championship trophies and Super Bowl rings.
Deuce McAllister will deliver the Lombardi Trophy on a red carpet 3 p.m. Wednesday, which is also NFL Play 60 Kids Day. The "NFL Rush Zone for Kids" has a smaller-sized field (with goal posts) and other kid-sized football activities. Athletes also will appear to sign autographs — check here for the autograph schedule — and there are auctions and a trade and collectible show.
Pepsi and Tostinos and the NFL Network, which broadcasts from inside the convention center, built "New Orleans-themed" sets, and a mock NFL Draft set gives fans a chance to recreate the "handing of the named jersey photoshoot" moment.
Forklifts and golf carts dodged rolls of astro-turf, stages and people as the finishing touches went up. Hundreds of staffers built the site, and volunteers will guide visitors inside when it opens. "They're a critical part of this success," said NFL vice president of events Mary Pat. "We're really blessed."
Also inside the convention center is the NFL Shop, a gargantuan gift shop for all things NFL and Super Bowl, including, um, Carnival beads:
The NFL Experience opens 3 p.m. Wednesday and runs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Saturday. It closes 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25.