Jacksonville was extra busy in February 2005.
“You have people coming in by boat, helicopter, car, limo,” said Michael Munz, a member of the city’s Super Bowl XXXIX host committee. “We had to bring in limos from Atlanta and Miami.”
Jacksonville, the smallest city to ever host a Super Bowl, faced a lot of logistical issues surrounding the big game. The biggest of all – running out of hotel rooms.
“The solution for that was we will bring in cruise ships,” said Munz. “We were like the little engine that could and we got it done.”
Inside the city limits, most Jacksonville folks like to look back on the city’s Super Bowl experience fondly. Outside, not everyone agrees.
The city ran out of hotel rooms, couldn’t handle the estimated 120,000 additional visitors and fans had to deal with overflowing toilets in the stadium on game day.
“It was the foulest thing I’ve ever smelled,” said one woman.
“It was disgusting,” added another.
“I don’t think there were any rooms available. I think people even rented their homes out for the weekend event,” said Tyrone Jackson, who works at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront hotel on the riverfront just a few miles from the football stadium. “I actually parked about eight blocks away to get down here for work because I didn’t want to get caught up in the bumper to bumper traffic.”
Even the newcomers to the city have been clued in to how dreadful that weekend was in northeast Florida.
“You got a lot of people from out of town looking for a good time and Jacksonville could not hold the capacity for the people from other parts of the state and country,” said Barlow Curran, a Jacksonville Jaguars. “So, I’ve heard bad things about the way it went.”
The committee members say the cruise ships were all part of the city’s pitch to get a Super Bowl to Jacksonville. They were necessary because the NFL has a rule that a host city must have a least one hotel with a minimum of 750 rooms. Jacksonville didn’t have one before building the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront – specifically for the game.
“When the NFL comes to your city, it basically takes over,” said Jackson. “The city was under siege.”
The actual game was one of the most memorable in Super Bowl history. The New England Patriots became the eighth team in history to win back-to-back championships by beating the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21.
Jacksonville will be remembered by many as the city that gave it its all and came up just a little short.
You can see this story during the 10News WTSP "On The Road to the Big Game," 30-minute special that will air at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 and at 7:340 a.m. Feb. 7.