Each year during Super Bowl week, the National Football League gives fans a chance to see and feel what it is like to play the hard-hitting game at the professional level.
Thousands of American-style football fans have gathered on the banks of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida to throw, kick, and catch footballs. They walk through large white tents filled with Super Bowl souvenirs and NFL merchandise. Alltel Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday, looms just on the other side of the water. It is the NFL Experience, a carnival-like playground where the average person can get a feel for the skills needed to play professional football.
Jennifer MacPhee, the Director of Communications for the Jacksonville and the Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, describes the NFL Experience as a: "Huge outdoor theme park that is geared toward all things football and Super Bowl related."
This marks the 14th year that the interactive theme park has been set up in the host city for the NFL championship game. Adults pay $15 to enter while children under age 12 pay $10. The proceeds are being donated to a youth program in Jacksonville.
Among the activities, fans have the chance to meet and get autographs from more than 50 NFL superstars. Coaches from around the league are making appearances and giving insight on football strategy. The NFL also has a huge trading-card display along with an opportunity for fans to pose as television announcers while some of the most famous NFL moments are shown on a large screen.
While some of the skill activities are geared for adults, younger fans can learn how referees keep the game within the rules. They can also follow along with cheerleaders and hear NFL players read children's stories. NFL personalities are also playing directly alongside and against fans with interactive football video games.