DALLAS (AP) — On tables and desks all over the offices of the North Texas Super Bowl host committee, the countdown to the big game is on.
Days, hours, minutes and seconds can be seen slipping away on rectangular, black countdown clocks about the size of a stapler. They arrived as a gift from a sponsor, but were so popular that hundreds more have been ordered.
"I look at that clock every blessed day, sometimes several times a day," said Bill Lively, the president and CEO of the committee.
Then he laughed. "I hate it," he said.
Truth is, the gimmick perfectly symbolizes the group's urgency — even though they are planning the 2011 game, not the one coming up in 2010.
The rush is because Lively and crew are trying to reinvent the way a Super Bowl is staged. Instead of a few weeks of events connected to the game, they're going for an entire year's worth, part of an Olympics-esque approach to make all 6 million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area feel a personal connection to a game only a tiny percentage will get to attend.
And, to pull it off, they're doing everything on a Texas-sized scale, with largest-ever host committee (about 250 people, led by Roger Staubach and with Troy Aikman joining him on the executive committee) to the biggest-ever budget, likely between $25 million and $30 million.
"I'm a native Texan and this is very much in my mind a Texan approach to a remarkable opportunity," Lively said. "This is so much more than a football game. The game is the reason you have all the rest. But it's the rest that touches so many lives. The way we're planning it, hundreds of thousands of people who live here can go to events, can be volunteers, can experience it and touch it so that in some way this game is fun and meaningful for them."
Despite this being a horrible time to ask for money to throw parties tied to a football game, the group already has crushed the Super Bowl record for fundraising by securing nine $1 million sponsors. Only the 2006 game in Detroit has snagged multiple $1 million benefactors and it had only two. Lively isn't done, either, with hopes to snag six more by this summer.
"We're raising the money to pay for almost everything," Staubach said, adding that hardly any money will come from taxpayers. "We're going to make sure we're able to do the things we're committed to doing."
Just as Staubach and Aikman are perfect front-men for this event, having won a combined five Super Bowl titles as quarterbacks for the Cowboys, Lively's background makes him the perfect the behind-the-scenes leader.
He started the Cowboys band in 1975 and ran it through 1988, along the way producing the entertainment at the 1978 and '79 Super Bowls. Jerry Jones dumped the band when he took over the team in 1989, but he kept Lively as the producer of game-day entertainment at Texas Stadium, a job Lively thought up and held through '97.
The gigs with the Cowboys were only part-time work while Lively was on the faculty and administration at SMU. His 25 years there included spending the 1994-95 school year as interim athletics director; that was the year the Southwest Conference was collapsing and the Bowl Championship Series was forming, so he got plenty of insight into the business side of sports.
Lively spent the last eight years as president and CEO of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, which really meant getting the center built. He raised $338 million, with 130 donations of at least $1 million, for a building that opens in October.
Staubach was so impressed by Lively's work that he hosted one of those fundraisers. He also kept Lively in mind to run this committee when North Texas was bidding on the 2011 game. Lively joined as a volunteer in the fall of 2007 and took over full-time on Jan. 5.
"Once we won the bid, all of a sudden I was chairman of the host committee and I'm thinking, 'Oh, my Lord, what have I gotten myself into?'" Staubach said. "We're very fortunate to have him. I think we are organized to really make this special and Bill is at the forefront."
It's safe to say the main reason this football-mad area lured Super Bowl XLV (that's No. 45) is because of the new stadium, a $1.1 billion, 100,000-seat showplace with the added bonus of being home to the team that's appeared in the most Super Bowls.
But there's a lot more to a bid than the field. And because this one is in Arlington, midway between Dallas and Fort Worth, it required the entire area to pitch in; thus, the "North Texas" moniker.
To Lively, making this a regional event is the backbone of his marching orders. He calls this the biggest local joint effort since DFW International Airport was built in the early 1970s and he's hoping the legacy of the game is that, this time, they'll stay together.
"I see the Super Bowl as a catalyst to form relationships and friendships that will linger and let us continue to attract sports and entertainment events and other things," he said.
So far, so good along this slippery slope that includes the NFL deciding where many of the Super Bowl week events go. For instance, the AFC team will live and train in Fort Worth, the NFC team will live and train in Irving, and Dallas likely will get something big, such as the NFL Experience, an attraction-filled event for fans usually held in a convention center-sized facility.
The yearlong buildup keeps spreading things around. Lively is talking about "concerts, receptions and parties … at shopping centers, airports, convention centers, concert halls, wherever." He's planning to have a booth at the State Fair in Dallas and Stock Show in Fort Worth, and he's looking to put banners with the game's logo — a silver silhouette of the stadium atop a wide triangle, giving it the look of a rocket ship blasting off — in airports and along highways.
Tampa, Fla., generated an estimated $150 million off this year's game and Lively is hoping the bigger agenda will provide a boost that's several times as large. An economic impact study is due out this spring. On Thursday, Staubach and Aikman will hold a news conference to announce some of the 2010 festivities.
"I think everyone realizes what we're capable of doing when we don't care who gets credit for doing what, when we surround ourselves with people who are smarter than we are and we get good advice from counsel," Fort Worth mayor Mike Moncrief said. "That's what we're seeing."
With so much to do, it's no wonder that Lively frequently eyes that countdown clock.
Staubach has one, too. Glancing down and seeing 700-something days left until Feb. 6, 2011, is awfully deceiving.
"This is our first chance to do it and we don't want to miss anything," he said. "We're going to knock ourselves out to show this is a great place. We want to create a feel-good atmosphere so the owners in the NFL and everyone else that's here says they want (the Super Bowl) to come back here."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.