If the economic benefit of hosting a Super Bowl doesn’t get an enthusiastic enough reaction, the crew seeking hometown support — both money and muscle — to hold 2018’s big game in Minneapolis will appeal to civic pride.
In four years, the Minnesota Vikings will be playing in a new $1 billion stadium and the Twin Cities will have a new face to show the world. That’s the main message from three business leaders appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to direct the Twin Cities’ 2018 bid.
In the days leading up to the game, those eager visionaries say new light-rail lines would ferry visitors among activities sites in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington. A redone Nicollet Mall would become NFL Boulevard. Visitors could stroll through a new public park and development flanking the stadium on the eastern edge of downtown. And by then, the Mall of America will have doubled in size.
“We’re so excited. When I did this before, we didn’t have any of that,” said Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the former Carlson Cos. CEO who led the successful effort to bring the 1992 Super Bowl to town.
Competition for the game is tough. Two other finalist cities are recent winners. Indianapolis hosted the 2012 Super Bowl and New Orleans had the game last year, so they have more recent experience in putting together winning bids. New Orleans, a tourist mecca, wants to host the ’18 game as part of its tricentennial celebration.
As Carlson Nelson woos Twin Cities hospitality operators and leaders like those she spoke to earlier this month, Ecolab CEO Doug Baker and U.S. Bancorp Richard Davis are working for corporate cooperation. Some 25 leaders from the Twin Cities’ top 40 corporations convened with Baker and Davis last week at the Vikings’ new stadium preview center across from the Metrodome.
As the movers and shakers got a look at models of the new stadium and luxury seats, Baker and Davis made a pitch for the corporate money and volunteers the city would need to put on a Super Bowl.
It wasn’t hard. “We basically preached to the choir,” Davis said.
Others may be skeptical about the financial benefits of a Super Bowl, but they are not. “If this were an economic loser, he and I wouldn’t be on board,” Baker said of himself and Davis.
In late January, Dayton appointed the three to lead the steering committee to work toward bringing the Super Bowl to Minneapolis.
“Richard and I knew nothing about this process the day the governor called,” Baker said.
They’ve since become immersed, especially as the April 1 deadline to submit the bid approaches. Two “big buckets” of work are being done now, Davis said. One is putting together the bid, and the other is lining up support. Carlson Nelson said the bid process comes with 200 pages of guidelines from the NFL.
They’ll get another shot to make a pitch in mid-May, when a Minnesota contingent will travel to New York City to meet with members of the NFL Super Bowl Committee to fine-tune the bid.
“The NFL has stated clearly they want three fantastic bids,” Davis said.
Davis and Baker also must come up with $20 million to $40 million in local sponsorships needed to pay for numerous events, venues and accommodations, including transportation for operations personnel and the public, a media center and facilities, a local NFL headquarters and team hotels, temporary seating and gameday expenses, and host-committee costs for administration and management. Corporations also will need to provide volunteers, he said.
“People want this back,” Baker said of the Super Bowl. “The math is clear — 100,000 people from out of town coming here in February — which would not be our peak season.”
Carlson Nelson said one can debate the economic boost of hosting the Super Bowl, but not the value of the publicity that would go with it. “We get exposure we could never pay for,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way to get thought leaders, key opinion leaders and corporate leaders to come to Minnesota.”
Playing host to such a major event would stamp the city as “Class A,” she said. “They come to Minnesota and they see what we do here.”
Part of shaping the bid is working with a theme and telling the story of this community. Carlson Nelson’s efforts in that arena for the 1992 bid remain legendary.
She came up with a plan to place solid chocolate mallards in the hotel rooms of each team owner to represent the flavor of the state’s bid — a great game, and wildlife. Unfortunately, many of the duck beaks broke off in transit to Minnesota. She repaired them with egg whites and the help of a hotel chef.
“We wanted to have them think of Minnesota as creative and fun,” she said. At subsequent sessions with the owners, Carlson Nelson became known as the “duck lady.”
This year’s bid doesn’t have a brand — catchphrase, motto or slogan — yet, but it’s already being worked on.
“If we lose, it will not be because we didn’t give it everything,” Davis said.