At his shiny new bar across the street from U.S. Bank Stadium, Erik Forsberg has been hoping for a windfall from Super Bowl LII.
He invested heavily to convert the aged former Hubert’s bar into Erik the Red, which opened soon after the new $1.1 billion stadium last year. For the Vikings’ season, Forsberg puts up a tent on the parking lot to accommodate gameday crowds. He’s busy then, but events leading up to Feb. 4, 2018, were to be the big payoff.
The Super Bowl “is supposed to give me the kind of traction I need to have a long-term business on track and pay down the debt,” Forsberg said.
Instead, he’s an example of how difficult security logistics are for the festivities before and during the game. Until recently, he wasn’t even sure he was going to be able to sell alcohol on gameday.
He’s one of many businesses throughout the Twin Cities that have been working with the Super Bowl Host Committee and the Minneapolis Police Department on the massive security logistics behind the event. Working with business owners like Forsberg, planners have tried to get the right balance of safety with hospitality and commerce.
U.S. Bank Stadium is wedged amid condos, apartments, restaurants and a homeless shelter for families, places people need to get in and out of every day. Super Bowl planners have spent the past two years going block by block, building by building talking to residents and business owners to figure out traffic and security plans to protect the public without disrupting lives.
The final plans, including which streets are closed and when, are expected to be announced in the next couple of days.
If the most recent Super Bowls in San Francisco and Houston are an indication, the security operation is like none other the Twin Cities has ever seen. Snipers will be on rooftops and in buildings in strategic places. Officers in head-to-toe commando gear will be on the streets gripping assault rifles against their chests.
Minneapolis Police Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher said the influx of federal agents to Minnesota will be the largest in the 52 years of Super Bowl history. “We are prepared for anything that might come our way,” he said last week.
The full extent of the security won’t be visible, but it will be everywhere: in the skies and on the ground. Whatever equipment is available will be used — from tactical vehicles to helicopters and boats.
The Department of Homeland Security defines the Super Bowl as a Level 1 Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR), meaning it’s at the highest level of public safety risk. And unlike at many other Super Bowl venues — in sprawled suburbs surrounded by asphalt — U.S. Bank Stadium’s downtown Minneapolis location has made security planning even tougher.
“We all want to know what it will be,” said Dan Collison, executive director of the East Town Business Partnership, which works closely with the residents and businesses on that end of downtown Minneapolis.
The stadium area is just one of many locations needing security. Gerlicher emphasized the operation extends to official events at the Mall of America, Winter Park in Eden Prairie, the University of Minnesota, St. Paul and elsewhere in Minneapolis.
The biggest events leading up to the game will be at the Minneapolis Convention Center and Nicollet Mall where some 1 million visitors are expected to attend the NFL’s interactive Super Bowl Experience and the host committee’s Super Bowl Live with free concerts, food trucks and other activities.
At those events, visitors will see many officers on the streets. There will also be many they don’t see, including plainclothes officers among the crowds and snipers above them. Gerlicher won’t talk numbers or locations of any of the forces.
He and Super Bowl COO Dave Haselman eagerly chat about the security that will be visible because they view those officers as part of the hospitality brigade. Law enforcement from 40 jurisdictions from Ely to Rochester will be on duty during the event that Gerlicher calls a “once-in-a-career opportunity” for officers.
Haselman added, “We want this to be a fun, safe party atmosphere. … We want them to come down, enjoy themselves then go home and promote this place.”
Gerlicher repeatedly has declined to discuss the scope of security measures, but he insists they’re ready for air and ground attacks like the tragedies in Las Vegas last month and New York City last week. Gerlicher says they are ready for “everything.”
In addition to uniformed officers, there will be other obvious visible protections, including 2.5 miles of concrete barriers topped with wire fencing. Some busy spaces will follow NFL bag restrictions (including no purses) and have metal detectors. The airspace will be restricted above the stadium during the game.
The cost to the city is expected to be at least $4.9 million. The host committee has a contract to reimburse Minneapolis for that amount. The committee, a private corporation, doesn’t release numbers, but Houston needed $70 million for Super Bowl LI.
The NFL takes over U.S. Bank Stadium in early January to begin “the build” for the game. In the week before the game, security is stepped up with the same barriers and fencing used for Vikings games.
Beginning at 6 p.m. Friday before the game, security gets even tighter. More streets will be closed.
The timing of the closures has been a much-discussed topic for months.
People Serving People runs the largest family home shelter in the state just blocks from the stadium on the corner of Portland Avenue and Third Street South. Of the roughly 350 people in the shelter every night, 200 are schoolchildren. CEO Daniel Gumnit said up to 40 school buses ferry kids to and from schools every day so access to the building is imperative.
“The challenge with this is we don’t know whether Homeland Security is going to come in and say they have to close our street,” Gumnit said.
He had nothing but praise for local organizers who meet with his staff almost daily to plan. “We’re hoping there’s not going to be a ton of disruption,” Gumnit said.
Hennepin County courts have spent the past two years studying other cities and strategizing for the 10 days of events. “We quickly realized there would be unpredictable levels of traffic,” said Sarah Lindahl-Pfieffer, a judicial district administrator for the county.
The Hennepin County courts see 1,500 people a day in front of 62 judges — most of them downtown. All five court buildings downtown “will be open and accessible,” she said.
Ticket holders only
Erik the Red’s situation is unique. And unusual.
Forsberg said Friday he will remain outside the perimeter in the days leading up to the game, then he expects to be inside the secure perimeter on gameday. The arrangement required months of negotiations because once his bar is inside the secure zone, it won’t be open to the public. Only the 65,000 fans with tickets to the Super Bowl will be able to go to his bar, and they will have to pass through metal detectors and follow bag restrictions to do so.
Initially, Forsberg said he was told he couldn’t sell alcohol on gameday in the secure zone because he’d be competing with the NFL for the revenue. But in the latest offer, he will be allowed to sell alcohol, Forsberg said.
Collison has been involved in countless meetings with the committee to “ensure there is virtually no disruption until Friday at 6 p.m.” because restaurants, bars and coffee shops all hope to benefit from the visitors.
As for the chain link fences and cement barriers that will go up in the neighborhood, Collision is resigned. “It’s not going to be attractive, but it’s necessary.”