One man who worked the 50th Super Bowl this past Sunday as a concession stand worker lived to tell the tale.
Gabriel Thompson, “a freelance journalist in need of money,” described his experience as a concession worker at one of the biggest sporting events on Earth with approximately 71,000 fans in attendance. His insights reveal that a majority of the workers who made the 50th Super Bowl a success are overworked, undervalued and underappreciated.
CNN Money reported that a few hours ahead of kickoff on Feb. 7, tickets for the Super Bowl were averaging $4,639 a seat. Though the cheapest seats for the game were more than $3,000, Thompson was paid less than $13 an hour. He wrote:
“The people we will serve today have paid as much as $10,000 for a single ticket. Like many Centerplate employees, I earn less than $13 an hour.”
He was hired two months earlier by Centerplate, a company that employs nearly 5,000 people to cook and serve food at Levi’s stadium. The Super Bowl game between the Carolina Panthers and Broncos took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center with kickoff time set in the late afternoon at 3:30 p.m. P.S.T.
Thompson arrived early Sunday morning and boarded a shuttle along with ushers, janitors and other food service-workers as he was instructed to arrive two hours early before his shift. He recalled:
“On Super Bowl Sunday, a few minutes before 7 a.m., I park in a crowded dirt lot behind Avaya Stadium, home to the San Jose Earthquakes soccer team. I’m carrying a black and gold card that reads, “I can make a difference at Super Bowl 50,” which I received a few weeks earlier at an orientation. It’s meant to inspire us during what promises to be a very long day.”
The workers on the shuttle express their discontent as they wait in stagnant traffic. Thompson remembers one man exclaiming that the wait is worse than Disneyland. Then an older woman voiced her frustration and shouted:
“This is how they treat the 99 percent who gonna serve the 1 percent! This is shameful!”
Thompson lamented the lack of compensation for the workers time. He noted:
“I swipe my card at 8:36 a.m. I am now on the clock, more than 90 minutes after I arrived to catch the shuttle. This unpaid time is likely illegal…”
On the bright side, Thompson wrote:
“…at least we’re getting paid something, which is more than can be said for the 5,000 volunteers the Super Bowl host committee recruited to greet people in the week leading up to the game. Or the 500 other volunteers who will lug the pieces of the stage onto the field for the halftime show, and who put in at least 34 hours of rehearsal time during the past two weeks — more unpaid labor, a subsidy of sorts for the Pepsi-sponsored halftime extravaganza.”
Thompson is an “expeditor” at the Chrome Grill, a walk-up eatery nestled within an upscale food court called the Yahoo Fantasy Football Lounge. He works an hourly wage that pays under $13, yet he sells exorbitantly overpriced food and drinks to customers. Thompson wrote:
“I see that we have new prices, too. But Light used to be $10; now it’s $13. Our hot dogs have gone jumbo and now cost $11.
“Our cooks, three temps who earn $10 an hour for typical Levi’s Stadium events, but $15 an hour for the Super Bowl, are cranking out food.”
He was hired on back in December after an interview for $12.25 an hour. Thompson explained that many employees who work at the stadium earn even less than that.
“The stadium has indeed provided a few thousand jobs — about 4,500 people work each event, serving hot dogs, directing traffic, mopping up spilled beer, and securing the grounds… Many of the stadium workers I spoke with told me they earn $11 or $12 an hour.”
When the super bowl ends hours later and the Broncos take home the win, the weary workers trod back to the shuttle line and await to be taken to their cars. Thompson recalled:
“Many people have been on their feet since 4 a.m., and we are packed so closely that sitting down is impossible. One woman starts sobbing.
“‘There’s gonna be a riot here!’ someone yells. It certainly feels possible. A chant breaks out: ‘We want to go home!’”
After a few hours in line Thompson makes his way onto the shuttle. He described:
“But my frustration is muted by my deep fatigue after being on my feet for 16 hours, all I want to do is get home and sleep…
“I pull out that black and gold card, still in my pocket, and notice for the first time that it urged us to go the “extra yard.” We’ve all gone more than that.”