Thursday, February 02, 2006

The scene at the RenCen

The Renaissance Center is home this week to the NFL Media Center, ESPN, and pretty much every sports radio station around. As the week has gone along, more and more people have been streaming in the lower levels of the building, buying souvenirs or hoping for a moment with any of the celebrities passing through.

Up in the offices, it's been quiet and getting quieter. As the mall becomes ever more crowded, the offices have emptied out. People working from home or from different locations. It's not this quiet the last day before the winter holiday.

In the mall, three main areas have been converted. The GM World area has become the Media Center. Where cars were on display in a sort of mini-museum/advertising area, there are many areas set up for the hosts and their interviewees. Everyone from ex-football heroes to bikini-clad women have been spotted. The two levels above the GM World area have circular rings where people walk; there are now so many people crowding the rings that there are marked "standing areas" in each one, where the tourists (and residents) may stop and peer down on the shows below.

On the 2nd level, GMU has become the credential center. The media pick up their badges there; without their badges they can't get anywhere.

And, in the Winter Garden area at the south end of the first floor, ESPN has taken over. A major tent housing multiple broadcast desks, and, in an open area, a mock football field where they can run their diagrams. At the corners of the football field area, are Cadillacs -- at one end a '74 Eldorado Convertible, and at the other a new Escalade. ESPN also has an area on the first floor for its radio show.

Guards, police and volunteers are everywhere. I didn't sign up to be a volunteer, and now I'm feeling sorry for it. They all got a really cool Super Bowl XL jacket/vest, and heck, it looks like a lot of fun -- fun, that is, if you can take a couple 4 hour shifts entirely on your feet.

The out of towners started streaming in as soon as the teams were determined. Even last Monday, there were plenty of Bettis jerseys to be spotted in the food court. That's also when the special Super Bowl kiosks started going up. There are a lot of kiosks now, all through the RenCen, and a walk-in store besides. The prices are outrageous, but business is brisk. Tenants are being offered a 20% discount, but I figure it'll go much steeper next week.

I stopped down a little before 3 today to check it out and take some pictures of the scene.

Over GM World, banners hang from the roof, 5 floors up, down to the first level. Someone on the 4th level is shooting with a professional video camera.

The view in to ESPN from the 2nd level.

The tourists will cheer just about any famous person. Here, David Spade responds to cheers from the ground floor, as he prepares to go on Dan Patrick's ESPN Radio show. It's just as well that David managed to get his arms in front of his face just as the shutter went, he looked a bit... tired. Rob Schneider is in the sweater behind David. They were promoting their to-be-released film, "Bench Warmers."

As celebrities come through, various areas within RenCen get closed off. At one point, the only public escalator on the south side of the building was closed off. Normally there are two -- one is for media only, and when the 2nd was closed off, there was nothing left. I got trapped during the Spade interview -- people couldn't get in to where I was standing, but I couldn't get out, either. Down below on the ground floor, the people cheer on cue -- that is, when the TV shows that they're live. I can't quite figure out what the cheese-heads were doing there, though; weren't the Packers eliminated last August?

The live audience for the interview with David Spade and Rob Schneider and whoever the heck the other dude was (the star, probably).
The ESPN personalities on the football grid. Ron Jaworski is holding the ball, and Emmitt Smith is the dapper one. The crew had applause signs for audience participation, but it was hardly necessary, they'd have cheered Smith if he sneezed. Heck, they'd have cheered him if he fumbled.
Emmitt Smith films a commercial before a live audience of hundreds. I love the look of the Eldorado in the corner. Other ESPN personalities sign autographs while Smith films -- many people walking around with signed footballs. Some friends of mine were volunteer wayfinders; they told me that people would routinely go up to anyone who appeared to be a celebrity, ask for an autograph, and then ask the wayfinder, "who was that?"
Side stage at ESPN, possibly setting up for another show later on. ESPN had two desk areas within the tent. The big SportsCenter broadcasts from the North side, and the analysts area on the South.
Rumors of appearances were plenty. At about the same time Smith was filming, the Rolling Stones were rumored to be in the building. It's a big, big building.

Back on Dan Patrick's radio show, interviewing Roger Staubach and Franco Harris. They're talking about the Minnesota game in 1975, you know the one. The offensive interference game. The iceball game. And yes, Pearson pushed off (we don't forget). But that did set up the first of two Super Bowls in which Staubach and Harris faced each other, back in Super Bowl X The other was XIII, and why am I typing Roman Numerals? I do like XL as a designation. Nice logo, this year.

The Winter Garden, from the South entrance.

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