There's nothing like the Super Bowl, especially for the North Texas contingent charged with putting on the 2011 edition of the nation's most-watched sporting event.
That's why they are in Tampa, Fla. - host committee members, mayors and police officials - observing firsthand how Super Bowl planning translates into on-the-field reality. It's also a chance to work toward fulfilling the committee's mission to make Super Bowl XLV in Arlington the biggest and best ever.
"We're laying the foundation ... that will give us a chance to hopefully do things other Super Bowls haven't done," said Roger Staubach, NFL Hall of Famer and local host committee president.
Central to the committee's work is creating a good impression and putting on a show so remarkable that the Super Bowl will return on a regular basis. Then there's managing traffic and security, and doing it all despite a bad economy.
The approach to impressing NFL owners, who decide on Super Bowl sites, is emphasizing the saying that everything is bigger in Texas. The new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington will be the world's largest domed stadium and has a long list of "firsts" and "largests."
Team owner Jerry Jones has vowed to have the largest attendance of any Super Bowl, besting the 1980 game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The Cowboys have said that extra seating in the end-zone decks and standing-room-only space in the end-zone plazas should push capacity to more than 100,000 fans.
To set the record, they'll have to squeeze in more than 103,985.
Bill Lively, North Texas host committee chief executive officer, said another important goal is to raise more money for charity than past Super Bowls. The NFL, host committee and some private foundations use the glitzy game to rake in millions for efforts such as the league's Youth Education Towns, which are education and recreation centers in poor neighborhoods.
The host committee plans to spend at least $20 million to cover the costs of dozens of events associated with the game. That amount would bury most other Super Bowl budgets. Arizona's committee raised $17 million for the 2008 game. In Tampa, the host committee worked with $7.2 million.
Two years out, the North Texas committee already has eight $1 million donors committed to the effort.
That fast start is a good sign that the nation's recession won't grind the fundraising to a halt, said Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck. He said he doesn't believe the economic crisis will prevent the committee from reaching its goal.
"I'm hoping this thing [recession] is going to head out of here this year or the early part of next year," Cluck said.
If that timeline works, the nation could be emerging from the recession in time to celebrate big in North Texas.
In Tampa, though, the economy is having an impact on Super Bowl week, according to various reports.
Editor & Publisher magazine reported that the number of media passes dropped this year, possibly for the first time in Super Bowl history. Playboy and Sports Illustrated canceled their exclusive parties.
PricewaterhouseCoopers released a report recently estimating that direct spending at this year's game would be down from that recorded at the past two Super Bowls. The report blames the economy for the decline.
The spending estimate of $150 million for this year would be slightly more than was spent when Tampa last hosted a Super Bowl, eight years ago.
Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said the North Texas committee can't be paralyzed by the economic crisis and other potential hurdles that it can't control. He said that the ice storm that caused traffic jams on roads last week made him think about things that could go wrong.
"Mother Nature is unpredictable," he said.
The game-day climate will be controlled inside the new Cowboys stadium, but the temperatures outdoors in early February can range from the 20s to the 80s.
Moncrief said the region must have a "Plan B" for transporting people in case of an ice storm during Super Bowl week.
Staubach said bad weather can hurt a host city's chances for securing another game.
"We sure wouldn't want an ice storm," he said. "That happened in Atlanta [in 2000], and that hurt them."
Atlanta has bid for the Super Bowl since, but it hasn't landed one.
Staubach said he doesn't believe that weather would be a deal-breaker for North Texas.
Although the weather and economy can't be controlled, the trip to Tampa and last year's visit to the Super Bowl in Arizona have provided good ideas about what can be managed, host committee officials said.
"You clearly see the things that are done right and hopefully see a couple of things that we could do better," Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said.
Cluck said he would come back to Texas determined to put a renewed emphasis on traffic control after he ran into trouble in Florida on Thursday night. What should have been a 30-minute drive to Tampa for an awards ceremony took 2 hours, he said. He and the other mayors missed the event.
"Traffic was almost stopped. We have to really find a way to move traffic efficiently into and out of the stadium area," Cluck said.
Dallas police Deputy Chief Julian Bernal said the trip has been an eye-opener. He said he didn't expect to see so much cooperation among all levels of law enforcement, from local to federal.
He said he'd like to see North Texas take an approach similar to Tampa's and make sure as many members of as many agencies as possible are located in same place to facilitate communication.
Leppert said he has been impressed with the level of cooperation and honesty from officials in Tampa.
Local host committee officials have said that despite the competition, other cities are willing to share their knowledge and expertise with other members of what's still a small fraternity.
"We're learning from somebody, and somebody in the future is going to learn from us," Leppert said.
Staff writer Todd Archer contributed to this report.