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Texas gets a worthy matchup ; Packers, Steelers are storied franchises

They do everything big in Texas, so it should come as no surprise that NFL officials and local organizers are promising Super Bowl XLV will be the grandest ever.

"The Super Bowl has got to be as magnificent as it possibly can be and every year it's going to be bigger and better," NFL Director of Event Operations Bill McConnell said during a media briefing in Dallas last week. "This is going to be the biggest and best without question."

This year's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will be held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the spectacular $1.2 billion dream home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Team owner Jerry Jones built the world's largest indoor stadium with an eye toward hosting the biggest events, and it doesn't get any bigger in this country than the Super Bowl. He has made no secret of his goal to break Super Bowl attendance records.

Thanks to the NFL, it looks like he'll get his wish.

The league is projecting a crowd of at least 105,000, which would break the previous record of 103,895 set during Super Bowl XIV between Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 20, 1980 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

About 15,000 temporary seats have been installed that will raise the capacity inside the stadium to more than 100,000. In an unprecedented move, the league also counts the 5,000 fans that will view the game outside on giant screens in a party plaza area on the east side of the stadium. The league also plans to sell 500 standing-room-only tickets and other seats with obstructed views.

Cowboys Stadium already holds attendance records for an NFL regular-season game (105,121) and for basketball (108,713 at the 2010 NBA All-Star Game).

The party plaza concept is intended to give fans who don't have a ticket to get inside the stadium an opportunity to be part of the game-day atmosphere.

"We're going to try to get as many people to experience the Super Bowl as we possibly can," McConnell said. "Capacity will be over 100,000. Exactly how many will be here, we won't know until game day."

The NFL probably could sell 200,000 tickets for this Super Bowl because of the two teams involved. Pittsburgh and Green Bay may have the largest and most well-traveled fan following in the NFL. Go to any venue in the league where the teams are visiting and you're guaranteed to see a large contingent of Terrible Towel-waving Steelers fans or Cheesehead-wearing Packer faithful.

Even with the expanded attendance, demand for tickets will remain high. Face value seat prices range from $600 to $1,200, but online sites like Stubhub are reporting tickets selling for $3,200 or more. Some ticket brokers have outrageous prices that go as high as $8,000. One fan reportedly paid a whopping $70,000 for a suite in Cowboys Stadium.

The party plaza tickets are priced at $200, but some buyers are peddling them for $150 to $200 more than what they paid.

Super Bowl host cities love teams with big, die-hard fan bases because of what it means to the local economy. Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that visitors to North Texas will shell out $202 million on everything from hotel rooms to merchandise to parties. That estimate would exceed the record $195 million economic impact Super Bowl XLI had on South Florida in 2007.

The Super Bowl also will be a big money maker for Fox, which is broadcasting the game. Companies paid a record $3 million each for 30-second advertisements and all the spots were sold out months in advance, according to Kantar Media Intelligence, an advertising analysis and information company.

The price of Super Bowl commercials has increased by 36 percent over the past 10 years, with a 30-second spot costing about $2.2 million, the company said. CBS sold 30-second ads for between $2.5 million and $2.8 million apiece for last year's Super Bowl.

One of the highlights of Super Bowl week is the parties, both public and private, as well as concerts and other events where fans can mingle with celebrities. Many of the premier parties that had been scaled back in recent years are scheduled to return. Most of the action will happen in Dallas and Fort Worth, but events are planned throughout North Texas.

Of course, the game is the reason most people come to the Super Bowl. Although Jones would have preferred if his team was playing, he said the Super Bowl couldn't ask for a better matchup. It's impossible to argue because the opponents are steeped in history.

The Steelers own a record six Super Bowl wins and could earn their third title in six years. The Packers are shooting for their first ring since the 1996 season and fourth overall. They won the first two Super Bowls under legendary coach Vince Lombardi, whose name is engraved on the championship trophy.

Both teams are loaded with stars on both sides of the ball. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could join New England's Tom Brady as a three-time Super Bowl winner. Green Bay signal caller Aaron Rodgers is looking for his first ring, which would earn him the acceptance of Packers fans still clinging to the Brett Favre era.

On defense, the Steelers feature safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison while the Packers are led by cornerback Charles Woodson and linebacker Clay Matthews III. Harrison and Woodson won the last two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.

Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, 38, already the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl, could become the first to win two before his 40th birthday. Green Bay's Mike McCarthy, meanwhile, can take his place among the NFL's elite coaches with a win on Sunday.

Both teams are scheduled to arrive today.

Christina Aguilera will sing the national anthem and halftime entertainment will be headlined by the Black Eyed Peas.

If recent history holds to form, Super Bowl XLV could be the most watched of all time.

The New Orleans Saints' victory over the Indianapolis Colts last year attracted the largest American television audience ever (more than 106 million people), surpassing the 1983 finale of "M*A*S*H," according to the Nielsen Co.

Add to that the millions watching in more than 230 countries worldwide as well as those inside and outside Cowboys Stadium, and it's easy to see why Jones said, "This Super Bowl, very likely, will be one of the largest events ever witnessed on this planet."

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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