Behind the scenes with the NFL Events department

(Note: Erin Casey from the NFL Events department is one of many NFL employees who are helping the league stage the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in South Florida. Casey will file a series of blog updates this week.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Pro Bowl players arrived in South Florida Tuesday night for the first Pro Bowl on the mainland in 30 years. The vibe was great, especially after the guys were told they will play the game in front of more than 70,000 fans at a sold-out Sun Life Stadium.

This year’s edition of the Pro Bowl, which took almost a year to plan, is unique not only because it is back on the mainland, and will have more fans in attendance than ever before, but because it is also being played the week prior to the Super Bowl.

We wanted to see if by flipping the games, and filling the bye week, we could give hungry NFL fans more football at the time they most crave it, and add to the excitement of our postseason by having our most important game last.

But by switching the games, and playing them in the same city, we also face some new challenges. We usually take weeks to prepare the stadiums and hotels for both games, but we will have to flip them almost overnight this time. There are different logos on the field, and since the Pro Bowl player hotel is also the Indianapolis Colts’ team hotel next week, we need to change everything there as well in record time. It will be a challenge to give the Pro Bowl players a hospitable goodbye, while preparing to welcome the Super Bowl teams for the most important game of their lives, but we have a strong event-planning team and we are ready for it.

Another thing that is significantly different is the location. A private hotel in a secluded part of Oahu vs. a hotel open to the public in Florida, not far from where many players own homes? Hard to compare.

So we decided not to compare them. Instead, this experience will stand on its own, because South Florida has many wonderful things to offer.

Miami and Fort Lauderdale are known for their incredible nightlife. With that in mind, we have several special events planned for the players. Tuesday night they had a cocktail reception on the beach. We were concerned players might not show up, but instead, when their mandatory meeting ended early, they arrived in droves and finished the food before the party had officially begun. Wednesday night there is a Cuban-themed welcome reception, with salsa dancers, mojitos, cigar rollers, cabanas, and a pig roast.

This Pro Bowl is exciting and challenging, and we are doing it without our beloved Tim Davey, who ran the Pro Bowl for decades in the football operations department. Tim passed away earlier this month. You can be sure, that in his memory, our staff will give this everything we have. So check back in during the week to see how things are going, and definitely tune in Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

— Erin Casey

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