Disclosure: This is not a compensated or sponsored post. I was given a private tour of the venue.
As we move further into the NFL playoff season, it is one of the best time of years for NFL fans. Being an NFL fan, I love everything that gives me the experience of being there. I was lucky enough to recently be able to tour the new NFL Experience venue in Times Square.
If you are an NFL fan and visiting New York then you have to stop by and check this out. It is a combination of exhibit, museum, a bit of Disney, and Dave and Buster’s all rolled up into one.
The NFL and Cirque du Soleil had been planning the project for about a year and a half at that point.
As we walk through the room, I have entered as a fan, I will soon become a player, and then I will leave as a champion. I will do all of this by watching a movie in a next-level IMAX-ish theater, participating in a mock combine/practice hybrid, and looking at the Lombardi Trophy in a room where the carpet is designed to resemble a football field littered with confetti.
I pass a case containing a cheerleading uniform, one of a few displays of actual memorabilia. Most of the action on this floor takes place on screens inlaid on tables set up throughout the space. I hit a button on one to tell it I’m a Kansas City chief’s fan. Highlights from recent years pop up, and I hit play on the video to display different games.
This place is like the NFL itself: Brightly colored, loud, stimulating, and a surprising mix of gaudy and beautiful.
The 4D movie is about to start, so we head into the theater. I ask what 4D is. It’s … well, no one wants to ruin it for me, so no they won’t go into details. But I am told that it’s more like a ride than a movie: There are screens on three out of the four walls, the seats in the theater move, and there will be wind. I turn my seat up to the “max” setting. I sit down and oblige.
The movie begins with a series of warnings that could also, I suppose, be applied to an actual NFL game — you might experience motion sickness, you could have a seizure, it will be very loud, and pregnant women should probably sit this one out.
My seat starts to shake and my body tenses up as the Packers run out of the tunnel to take the field. NFL Films is a partner in this whole thing, so there’s lots of “never-before-seen” footage from the point of view of players. My chair buzzes, slowly at first, as Aaron Rodgers looks for an open receiver. The vibrations ramp up as he pulls his arm back to throw, then suddenly the whole seat shifts, tilting me forward. Rodgers releases the ball and my seat whips me to the side, slamming me into the armrest as the quarterback gets tackled by a defender who’s charged at him out of the blue on the front screen. Video of the stands on the side screens show fans screaming and cheering.
Montage after montage of hits and sacks and throws and touchdowns take us through the regular season as I’m yanked around in time to the action. The film takes us onto the playoffs. “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays through the speakers and my seat quakes as fighter jets fly overhead. The film ends before anyone makes it to the Super Bowl, but it’s done its job: I have officially become a player, and it’s time to move on to the mock equipment room and practice facility a floor below.
There’s a vertical jump in here, as well as dummy blocking, an interactive playcalling situation with Jon Gruden (that was filmed especially for this!), a build-your-own-trading-card station, and a place where you can throw a football at a screen to a virtual wide receiver. Playing football is fun. I delight in throwing spirals to a pixilated Travis Kelce, who catches two and misses one.
I have performed exceptionally well, but as I walk down the stairs and to the final floor, I have won the Super Bowl nonetheless. The confetti hanging from the ceiling is the Patriots’ colors, but it will change each year according to which team is the current champion. There’s a display of Super Bowl rings from year to year, which have gotten increasingly ostentatious, as well as copies of tickets. A few decades ago, a seat went for $12. Last year, the one displayed on the wall cost $1,500.
am officially a champion. I walk through “the media tunnel” and enter the bar and restaurant area that overlooks Times Square. It will serve rotating offerings of specific dishes from stadiums, and will be — the league hopes — a place you can watch the game on Thursday nights.
The drills were enjoyable no matter how much or how little you know about the game. I can see where if you’re a football-obsessed kid, or a family that won’t be going to a game anytime soon, this would be a cool, behind-the-scenes look.
I loved being here and will have to return and check it some more. I could stay here for hours.