Super Switch

Goodbye Midtown, Hello Downtown: ESPN makes Super Bowl switch for live broadcasts

Goodbye Midtown, Hello Downtown: ESPN makes Super Bowl switch

ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown in Mexico City
ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown will originate in Houston. Here's the broadcast team in Mexico City. Photo courtesy of ESPN
ESPN site for Super Bowl coverage in downtown Houston
This parking lot near Toyota Center will be the site for ESPN broadcasts of Super Bowl LI. Photo by Clifford Pugh
METRO light rail in Super Bowl skin
METRO light rail line has been covered in Super Bowl advertising. Photo by Clifford Pugh
Fox Sports Super Bowl construction in Discovery Green
The Fox Sports set is being constructed in the middle of Discovery Green.
ESPN at Super Bowl in San Francisco
A scene from an ESPN Super Bowl broadcast last year in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of ESPN
ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown in Mexico City
ESPN site for Super Bowl coverage in downtown Houston
METRO light rail in Super Bowl skin
Fox Sports Super Bowl construction in Discovery Green
ESPN at Super Bowl in San Francisco

After touting the new Midtown Park on the Main Street light rail line as the site for its Super Bowl LI coverage, ESPN has decided to move downtown.

The sports broadcasting giant has secured a parking lot near Toyota Center as the hub of its activities next week. The 1500 block of Austin, bordered by Bell, LaBranch and Leeland streets, is adjacent to Super Bowl LIVE activities that are expected to be a prime gathering spot, drawing upwards of a million people to downtown Houston.

A few blocks away in the center of Discovery Green, Fox Sports is constructing a massive steel and glass broadcast center. But as of Wednesday, there was no activity at the ESPN location. However, ESPN senior director of communications Bill Hofheimer noted in an email that the first broadcast at the site will not occur until next Wednesday (February 1), and expects set-up to begin over the weekend or early next week.

"Our production team determined that it was best for us to be in downtown Houston near the NFL media center," Hofheimer explained. "Our ESPN offices for the week and hotels are also within walking distance of the new location. The people at Midtown were very accommodating. While ESPN will no longer be based there, we still plan to highlight Midtown as part of our Super Bowl week coverage from Houston."

Construction continues at a fevered pitch on the new Midtown Park, a 6-acre site bounded by Main, McGowen, Travis, and Anita streets. Officials are planning a two-day "Super Block Party" on February 4 and 5 to celebrate the opening of the park. A free concert series will also take place from Feb. 2-4 at nearby Bagby Park.

ESPN's downtown site is on land owned by Houston-based Camden Property Trust, which is also building a midrise apartment complex next to Midtown Park. Camden chairman and CEO Ric Campo is chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee.

ESPN plans to originate more than 45 hours of television and radio programming from the new location and other nearby venues February 1 - 5. The broadcasts will actually begin on January 30 at Super Bowl Opening Night at Minute Maid Park and continue with live editions of NFL PrimeTime and SportsCenter from the field at NRG Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday (February 5).

Fans are invited to view live programming at the downtown location throughout the week, where Sports Center and ESPN's NFL shows will originate, and at Lucky's Pub (801 St. Emanuel Street), where Mike &Mike, First Take, and Outside the Lines will broadcast live. ESPN Radio’s The Stephen A. Smith Show and Russillo & Kanell will broadcast from Radio Row at the George R. Brown Convention Center.