At least two veteran National Football League players are gay, draft analyst Benjamin Allbright reports. While the closet for LGBT pro football players is likely larger than Levi’s Stadium, many of our local and very out queer businesses—including the San Francisco Bay Times—are a part of Super Bowl 50, which could be the gayest NFL league championship event ever as a result.
From flowers to lighting, local LGBT businesses are working to help ensure that the February 7 game and related activities will not just go smoothly, but also spectacularly. In the articles that follow, you will learn more about them and the efforts of Business Connect, a successful program of the NFL and the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee.
Our thanks go to Stephanie Martin of the committee, as well as to the Golden Gate Business Association, Ken Stram, JP Leddy, Paul Pendergast, Dawn Ackerman, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, Ruth McFarlane, Rebecca Rolfe, John Chen, Fitness SF and others for their help in putting this special section together.
This Super Bowl Is Just Like the Bay Area Itself
By Stephanie Martin
Super Bowl 50 marks a milestone in NFL history, celebrating not only the past 49 Super Bowls, but also an opportunity to set the bar for the next 50. The Bay Area knows how to celebrate, and this Super Bowl celebration will be like no other.
For many, the Super Bowl is appointment television, whether for the game or the commercials, but for a host region, it’s an opportunity to celebrate with its residents and create a legacy that can last well beyond the last whistle.
With a goal of creating an experience that not only reflects the significance of the golden game, but also the personality and values of the San Francisco Bay Area as well, community leaders across the region, Bay Area businesses, public officials and the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee have come together to seize this moment.
“The three main hubs of Super Bowl Week—Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, and Super Bowl City and the NFL Experience in San Francisco—will serve not only as centers of energy for Super Bowl Week, but also as catalysts for visitors to find and patronize the many restaurants, shops and small businesses in the surrounding areas,” said Daniel Lurie, chair of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. “Our commitment from the beginning has been to put our Bay Area community first, and create real opportunities for our region to benefit from this opportunity to host Super Bowl 50, whether it is local businesses or our Bay Area’s nonprofit community.”
From January 30 through February 7, Super Bowl Week will feature a number of events, activities and community initiatives that are designed to engage residents and visitors alike, and enable them to participate in the magic of Super Bowl.
Super Bowl City presented by Verizon, the Host Committee’s free public fan village, was designed to showcase the best the Bay Area has to offer. With interactive games and activities that highlight the region’s technological prowess, culinary excellence and cultural diversity, Super Bowl City will celebrate Super Bowl 50 and the Bay Area’s place in NFL history.
Located at the foot of Market Street in Justin Herman Plaza, Super Bowl City will feature interactive exhibits for fans of all ages. For example, the Fan Energy Zone powered by SAP is a nod to the Bay Area’s leadership in technology and innovation. It will showcase the latest in digital gaming, social media and data visualizations through a 40-foot interactive dome and 50-foot video wall.
In addition, fans can enjoy Bay Area food and drink with fine Sonoma County wines at the Taste of Sonoma wine tasting lounge, tailgate-style barbeque from Michael Mina’s Bourbon and Steak, and San Francisco seafood from Woodhouse Fish Co.
The City Stage presented by Levi’s will feature the region’s artistic vitality, with live music and local performing artists including 50 Fund grantees, as well as free evening concerts with headliners such as Alicia Keyes.
And in a break from tradition, Super Bowl City is opening for an extra weekend to ensure local residents have the opportunity to experience the excitement of Super Bowl 50 before out-of-town guests arrive.
True football fans should make their way to the NFL Experience at Moscone North and South, which is the NFL’s pro-football interactive theme park. The NFL Experience will offer participatory games, youth football clinics, merchandise from NFL Shop and free autograph sessions from NFL players. NFL Experience also will debut new attractions in San Francisco including personalized digital photos, upgraded 40-yard dash and vertical jump against NFL players on LED screens, a virtual reality experience, an enhanced Super Bowl rings display and a new NFL Draft set! Share your experiences using #SB50. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at the Moscone box office.
And as part of the effort to mold Super Bowl 50 in the image of the Bay Area’s diverse culture and communities, the 50 Host Committee has enlisted the Bay Area’s LGBT community to play a major role in the festivities. Previously, the NFL opened contracting opportunities for the production of the game to businesses that are minority, women and disabled veteran owned through its Business Connect program. For the first time, as part of Super Bowl 50, the NFL and Host Committee have opened those same opportunities to local LGBT-owned businesses.
“The Bay Area is the home of the equality movement, so we’re proud to make Super Bowl 50 the first Super Bowl where LGBT businesses will be front and center in the production of the game’s events and festivities,” said Keith Bruce, CEO of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee.
Dawn Ackerman was awarded one of the very first Business Connect contracts for LGBT-owned businesses. Ackerman’s company, Outsmart Office Solutions, supplies the office products to furnish the Host Committee’s Battery Street office. She stresses that in addition to the money that the contract itself will bring in, the Business Connect program offers training courses and networking opportunities that “definitely help us generate business leads and get key exposure that will serve us long after the Super Bowl leaves town.”
“From an LGBT standpoint, it’s history making. It’s being invited to the dance, so to speak.” said Paul Pendergast, owner of Pendergast Consulting Group, an LGBT-owned company that specializes in public affairs consulting on major construction projects. “And we’re excited to see all small business get a piece of the action in the lead up to the Big Game.”
Additionally, Host Committee organizers are working to return 25% of all money raised from corporate sponsors back into the Bay Area community through their philanthropic arm, the 50 Fund. As part of those efforts, several local LGBT-focused organizations have received grants as organizers work to leave a lasting impact and legacy on the region that will survive long after the last whistle sounds.
The San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center is one such organization that has benefited from Super Bowl 50. The Center was founded as a central resource, meeting place and home for the LGBT community in San Francisco, and on an average month, they host more than 200 programs and activities.
Their 50 Fund grant of $10,000 will provide support of their Youth Program’s youth leadership project—the Center Youth Council (CYC). The primary goal of the CYC is to identify, mentor, train and support LGBTQ youth who aspire to lead.
The grant will also support the hiring of a San Francisco street resource director to support the needs of homeless LGBT youth. As part of the grant, Host Committee organizers also recognized LGBT youth Angel VanStark as their 50 Fund “Playmaker.” Angel led the establishment of a dedicated Queer Youth Space at the Center and today he serves on the Center’s Board of Directors and was appointed to the City of San Francisco’s Youth Commission.
For more information about events and activities during Super Bowl Week, visit the Host Committee’s website at www.sfbaysuperbowl.com or download the free Road to 50 app.
Stephanie Martin is the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications.