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Sacco Sez: Denver's Super Bowl architect

Posted Feb 4, 2016

Ever wonder who's behind all the framework of preparing a city and stadium for the Super Bowl? Meet Jerry Anderson.

With the decision to move Media Day to prime-time television on Monday night, millions of football fans got the opportunity to see the organized chaos of that moment live for the first time.

When you watched the event take place, did you notice that many players had organized positions, and that the NFL Network had a designated set?

Organizing this event is a major project, but who exactly does the design and execution of Super Bowl events? A man from Denver, that's who.

Jerry Anderson is a co-founder of Populous, a sports architectural firm headquartered in Kansas City but with offices in Denver, as well as with six other locations in the United States and seven locations in five other countries.

I have been honored to know Jerry over the past 30 years as a good friend, and he is as humble today as he was when he did the design for his first Super Bowl 29 years ago.

Populous has designed over 1,000 sports venues worldwide and Jerry personally has had a direct role in the design of 11 Olympic Games.

He is calm (I don't know how), completely charming and so humble one would never guess the impact of his role. But it is big, even if Jerry makes it seem like no big deal.

"We plan out the needs for the Super Bowl, assign the space, design the needs, and then build it out," he says.

Oh, it's as simple as that?

The job includes dozens of employees and hundreds of temporary workers, planning out and putting up trailers, tents, offices, pipes and drapes, to include virtually every square foot of Super Bowl space.

He is quick to praise every employee, and in most cases will give the credit to someone else when you know very well that he made the decision.

I worked with Jerry for over two decades in the building out of the media center and credential area, and to make it very clear, he was always very tolerant and understanding of the goofiest request, invariably either doing it or doing something much better thought out, and always with a smile.

You need a generator to provide more power to the stadium? Tell Jerry.

You want to heat the outdoor press seating area in Arizona (yes, this really happened)? Tell Jerry.

For many years, Gary Wright of the Seattle Seahawks and I were "co-captains" of the media center, and it was such a joy to work with Jerry. It was a warm moment for me and Gary, and I hope for Jerry, when we ran into each other on gameday when the Broncos played the Seahawks, and he took the time to take a picture with us.

A Denver resident who truly is a Westerner, Jerry got his bachelor's degree from Montana State and earned a master's in architecture from the University of California-Berkeley before embarking on an illustrious career.

This most regular of guys is an internationally recognized and honored sports architect who, in addition to designing the Super Bowl for these past three decades, did much of the major design work on Coors Field, Pepsi Center, and Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Denver.

Jerry also designs the Pro Bowl, the Major League Baseball All-Star game, and the National Hockey League Winter Classic series.

A busy guy, you have to catch him when you can at his office in Denver, as he is more often than not on the move.

In fact, when we played the San Francisco 49ers in London several years ago and our team buses pulled into the fabulous new Wembley Stadium for practice, the first words I heard as I got off the bus were "Hey, Sacco!"

Who is calling me out in London?, I wondered.

It was the architect of the NFL's international games, of course, from Denver to London, the ubiquitous Jerry Anderson, smiling and in charge, as always.

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