Minnesota's Super Bowl LII will be celebration of all things winter

MINNEAPOLIS -- Roger Goodell presenting the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft and Tom Brady on Sunday would be the photo-op of the millennium if the New England Patriots owner and quarterback win Super Bowl LI a year after the NFL commissione...
With 60 percent of the roof and the western front covered with clear tiles, plenty of daylight enters U.S. Bank stadium. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

MINNEAPOLIS - Roger Goodell presenting the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft and Tom Brady on Sunday would be the photo-op of the millennium if the New England Patriots owner and quarterback win Super Bowl LI a year after the NFL commissioner punished both for a ball-deflating scandal.

Unless the upstart Atlanta Falcons upset the dynasty and let the air out of that bloated narrative once and for all.

Either way, Goodell has another public handoff to make Monday in Houston, when the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee takes the ball for Super Bowl LII, which will be played Feb. 4, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Billboard clocks throughout the metro area will count down the 52 weeks until the Twin Cities becomes the epicenter of sports, entertainment and commerce. There will be rallies Tuesday afternoon outside the stadium and Friday night at the Mall of America rotunda embracing the frozen landscape where pro football will crown next season's champion.

"We call it 'Bold North' because it's not too often a Super Bowl is held in a winter market," said Andrea Mokros, vice president of communications for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. "You can't hide February in Minnesota. Minnesotans embrace winter. We're leaning hard into that."

Super Bowl XXVI was played at the Metrodome in January 1992, when the Washington Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills. The NFL Fan Experience debuted at the Minneapolis Convention Center. And that is where the comparisons start and stop.

The four-day ramp up in 1992 has grown into a 10-day interactive extravaganza, with concerts and parties slated across the metro area.

Mokros was among dozens of committee members who traveled to Houston on a scouting mission to tour facilities, challenge volunteers for directions and witness first-hand how the market manages 5,000 accredited media and upward of 1 million attendees throughout the week leading up to Sunday's game.

With temperatures soaring into the 80s, they toured bus yards and transportation hubs that shuttled people among venues throughout greater Houston, including NRG Stadium, which is on the outskirts of the city.

Taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers were in high demand.

"The compact nature of our community will work in our favor," Mokros said. "Downtown, you can walk to the stadium and convention center, theaters and bars on Hennepin Avenue, and really feel like you're part of a live event. You can also hop on the light rail and quickly get to St. Paul or the Mall (of America)."

Similar activities in Minneapolis will center downtown at the convention center and Nicollet Mall, which is being renovated for overhead heating. There will be an interactive football bazaar where NFL players sign autographs, playgrounds for kids to kick field goals, and stages for concerts and ESPN broadcasts.

The "NFL Experience" in Houston costs $35 a ticket. But "Super Bowl Live" is another entertainment center that is free. Minnesota organizers "will have a unique, 'Bold North' version of these entertainment options in 2018," the committee said in a statement.

The Mall of America is expected to host the media party at Nickelodeon Universe. St. Paul will incorporate Super Bowl activities into the annual Winter Carnival, which will conclude on Super Bowl Sunday.

"We do winter better than anybody else in world, and we're going to show off how good we are at it and how much fun we have," said Joe Spencer, director of arts and culture for the city of St. Paul.

The Xcel Energy Center is a candidate to host the Monday Opening Night Party and Media Day.

It is the one day players from both Super Bowl teams are available for interviews. Fans paid $20 to attend this year's opening night at Minute Maid Park, home of baseball's Houston Astros, where they could use multi-channel handheld radios to listen in on whatever interview session they chose.

"We're aware the game is in Minneapolis, but the Winter Carnival going into Super Bowl weekend is a great opportunity to showcase our city, especially to media members who are coming into town," Spencer said. "All of our hotels are sold (out). They're full. Everybody's at capacity."

Organizers expect the 41,000 hotel rooms in the Twin Cities metro area to be booked during the 10 days. Local and regional visitors generally drive early attendance. More than 125,000 visitors are expected to arrive in the days leading up to the game.

'A whole different animal'

Minnesota professional sports teams might be in a 26-year championship drought, but the Twin Cities are used to hosting major sporting events.

Baseball's All-Star Game in 2014 paraded players through downtown Minneapolis to Target Field and housed interactive fan events at the convention center.

Last fall, the Ryder Cup played host to 250,000 international golf fans in suburban Chaska. While there was grumbling about traffic jams and parking snafus, overall the event was widely praised for its proficiency.

St. Paul incorporated the 2004 NHL All-Star Game seamlessly into its Winter Carnival that year.

Still, those events were concentrated over a handful of days. Not 10. And nothing compares to the Super Bowl.

"This is a whole different animal," said Mokros. "You never really understand how big it is until it really takes over a city with its drawing capacity and branding."

Minneapolis is responsible for infrastructure, communications, traffic control, public safety and emergency management. The city has a police force of 850 officers but also is partnering with local, state and federal agencies to facilitate the NFL's security perimeter while ensuring the rest of the city is patrolled as usual.

"The NFL hasn't quite determined what their plans are for downtown, where those free or outdoor activities will be," said Minneapolis City Coordinator Spencer Cronk. "Because we have such a smaller footprint than Houston or Phoenix or San Francisco/Santa Clara - where the stadium is sometimes 20 or 30 miles from the city center - the larger risk is things like a blizzard.

"If we have everyone downtown leaning into cold weather, we need to ensure those roads are cleared, streets are plowed and our local residents and workers downtown know how traffic patterns will change so they can adjust their schedules accordingly."

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee is a nonprofit organization, responsible for raising operating costs and subsidizing public safety costs.

Operating budgets still are being finalized. Last year's San Francisco/Santa Clara Super Bowl cost public service agencies about $6 million, which the host committee reimbursed, according to Cronk.

As for tickets to Super Bowl LII, get out your pocketbooks and lucky rabbit's foot.

The average ticket price for this year's game in Houston is $4,800, compared with $3,334 for the previous four Super Bowls, according to WalletHub.

The NFL manages distribution based on a trickle-down formula that will be applied to the 66,000 seats available at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The participating teams each receive 17.5 percent of the allotment. As the host team, the Vikings receive 5 percent. The remaining 29 clubs get about 1.2 percent apiece. All team seats are offered to season-ticket holders in a lottery.

The NFL retains 25 percent of the tickets, which it holds for corporate sponsors and sells to media outlets. Later this month, there will be a general fan lottery for the remaining $500 tickets, according to league spokesman Brian McCarthy.

Hospitality packages also can be found online offering game tickets, hotels and transportation.

Still want to take part without spending too much?

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee is recruiting 10,000 volunteers to welcome visitors and guide them wherever they need to go.

By the numbers

A look at numbers, projected and otherwise, related to Super Bowl LII scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis:

1,000,000: Projected attendees over the 10-day event.

125,000: Visitors to Twin Cities from 130 countries.

60,000: Visitors to Twin Cities for Super Bowl XXVI at Metrodome in January 1992.

$625: Amount of money each visitor is expected to spend per day in 2018 on food, beverage, entertainment and retail.

10,000: Volunteers recruited by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.

5,000: Media credentialed to cover game.

3,000: Media credentialed for Super Bowl XXVI at Metrodome in January 1992.

41,000: Twin Cities hotel rooms projected to be booked over the 10-day event.

1,300: Additional planes scheduled to land at Houston airports this week for Super Bowl LI; 85 percent corporate jets.

111.9 million: Television viewers for Super Bowl L between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.

$5,000,000: Cost of a 30-second television ad during Sunday's Super Bowl LI.

$4,800: Average ticket price for Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium in Houston.

$3,334: Average ticket price for previous four Super Bowls.

51.7 million: Cases of beer sold on Super Bowl Sunday.

1.5 million: People who call in sick on Monday.

Sources: Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee; city of Minneapolis; WalletHub

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.