Kyle Chank’s days begin with a brisk walk across downtown from his Loring Park home to his cramped office on the 12th floor of the U.S. Bank Building.
The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee vice president has a window but barely enough space for his own desk and chair. Bringing in a couple of visitors means maneuvering around the door and the some metal shelving.
As the vice president for operations and logistics, Chank’s job is to make sure everything works — from how fans get home from nightly concerts to how the town gets out from under a 3-foot snowfall on Super Bowl weekend. Every hour of his schedule has some mix of walking, talking and dissecting maps and diagrams — all done with more urgency of late.
“The game’s going to happen on February 4th whether we’re ready or not,” Chank said.
The private, nonprofit host committee began with a single person in January 2015 and has grown to 31 paid staff. NFL officials will supplement the operation when they move to town right after the New Year to prepare for official events, which begin the weekend before the game.
The committee’s profile and pace increase daily — as does the intensity of public scrutiny, a lesson Chank learned this month after public blowback over the fact that everyday transit riders will be relegated to buses on certain routes on Super Bowl Sunday while game ticket holders get to ride the trains and disembark at the platform right outside the stadium doors.
Chank was nonplused by the reaction. “A lot of the plans are based on public safety. That’s the top priority,” he said. “We can’t adjust it.”
At 26, Chank is viewed as a wunderkind — a veteran of the three most recent Super Bowls in Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix. The Palm Springs, Calif., native earned a journalism degree from Arizona State University in 2 ½ years followed by a master’s in sports management from Georgetown University.
He’s had starter jobs — all related to sports — but he’s been planning Super Bowls since his first in Arizona in 2015. He’s the only Super Bowl mercenary on the Minneapolis staff and he’s not sure yet whether he’ll try to move on to Atlanta in 2019. He’s not going to make any decisions until he experiences his first Minnesota winter.
He’s preternaturally calm despite the scope of his task, though his chewed-down fingernails hint at the pressure. He’s distilled his work to 29 color-coded boxes on a giant whiteboard behind his desk, among them snow management, public safety, Super Bowl Live and parking. Using blue, green and red markers, he’s got dates, venues, events and staff assignments.
Each box can be profoundly complicated. One part of the snow management plans includes the skyways, which are managed by 70 different companies; all of them must be consulted for hours of access.
He’s got a 14-square calendar that begins Jan. 22.
Chank has a standard line when he’s asked about the massive task of pulling off the host committee’s 10 days of events — for which it has raised more than $50 million already. “I grew up with three sisters; I’ve had a lot tougher pressure than this,” he said.
Most of his strategy involves working hard, daily stress-relieving runs on the treadmill and “embracing the challenge.” He also has a management-speak motto: “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.”
On a recent morning, his first appointment lasted an hour with a representative from a transportation company hoping to get a healthy share of Super Bowl business. As a condition of access to Chank’s meeting, the Star Tribune agreed not to identify this person or their business.
Chank came to the meeting with a 150-page plan depicting day-by-day road closures, security and traffic plans for the 10 days of events scattered among St. Paul, downtown Minneapolis and Bloomington.
In a pale gray suit over a white shirt (no tie), Chank looked both relaxed and focused in the one-on-one meeting. His forearms rested on the table as he showed the diagrams to the visitor.
“We have some parking lots we’re holding in our back pocket,” Chank said. “The first week of December, the NFL’s going to be here and we’ll know a lot more after that. … I need to introduce you to the Club Nomadic guys,” he says of the organizers of high-profile concerts in downtown Minneapolis and at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake.
They expect after an Armory concert there will be 7,000 fans emptying out of the building into a relatively small area, Chank said. He ends the meeting encouraging the representative to review the plan. “Feedback is always appreciated.”
One meeting to the next
The next hour entails going over the same plan, distilled into 15 pages called “Know Before You Go,” with a reporter seeing it for the first time. In other cities, he’s been able to keep the plan to 10 pages, “but this one is complicated,” Chank said. Besides Minnesota weather to contend with, U.S. Bank Stadium is downtown, surrounded by offices, restaurants and apartment complexes, unlike the suburban locales of recent Super Bowls.
Then he’s off through the skyways to City Center for an all-staff meeting led by volunteer director Elle Kehoe. She goes over plans for the orientation kickoff at Xcel Energy Center a few days away. Be friendly, helpful and stay off your cellphones, Kehoe said.
As the session wraps at 12:15 p.m., Chank signals to sponsorship manager Ariel Toback that they need to go. Chank runs to the restroom, then heads out with his cellphone to his ear. He pulls on his “Bold North” purple pompom cap as he walks to an Uber ride for a brief trip to the stadium.
“We can do lunch or breakfast next week,” he tells the caller.
At the stadium, Toback takes the lead, questioning architects about access to suites on game day. “Can we walk them through the Truss Bar?” she asks, referring to a private space on the stadium’s upper level. “There’s also a staircase here, how will that be managed?”
The suites, some of which will be divided and reconfigured for the game, need furniture, and there’s confusion about who will handle that.
“The last thing is coatracks,” Toback said. The architects ask, “Do you want pretty ones or just racks?”
Together they hike to a suite where a representative from stadium operator SMG meets them to talk about walls, paint colors and locations of more bars. The SMG representative takes detailed notes and promises to get back to everyone with options and prices.
Then the group splits and Chank heads to a private meeting in another part of the building.
By the time he is back at his desk, it’s past 2 p.m. He flips through e-mails as he eats the lunch he brought from home: a salad of iceberg lettuce topped with chopped tomatoes and a lone chicken drumstick.
By 3 p.m., he is on the phone for a scheduled call.
“I have a party for 2,000 people at the Depot in the Renaissance on Washington,” Chank said. “I need ADA access. We did talk about small golf carts. I’d rather just do it right and get two ADA sprinters.”
The discussion moves quickly, leaving Chank a few minutes before he heads back toward the stadium for an East Town Neighborhood meet-and-greet — his final work obligation of the day.
He keeps it simple and focused. “I tell my team to check the box and move on,” he said. “It’s a very simple life. You saw the salad I was eating.”
He confesses to one instance of panic in mid-October.
He took off a Friday afternoon and most of the weekend to celebrate his birthday with visiting friends. On Monday, he dropped his friends at the airport at 5:30 a.m. He planned to go home and take a nap before work, but he grew anxious thinking about the unanswered e-mails that had accrued throughout the weekend. “I was in a dead sweat,” Chank said.
He showered and went to work.