SAN FRANCISCO – With a video of NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in the International Space Station tossing a football in zero gravity and catching it himself, the Houston host committee took over planning for next year's Super Bowl in impressively charming fashion Monday.
"Houston, we have kickoff," a smiling Kelly said.
Listening to the news conference from the back row at the Moscone Center, Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee CEO Maureen Bausch and three staff members watched and learned — as they have all week at behind-the-scenes tours, free public events and exclusive private parties.
Houston plays host to the 2017 Super Bowl, then comes Minneapolis in 2018 — Super Bowl LII, to be precise, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"We're going to do a major, major debrief when we get back," Bausch said after listening to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Houston leaders, Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and coach Gary Kubiak of the champion Denver Broncos.
"We had so many partners out here that we've got to pull all of our ideas together," Bausch said. "Everyone sees [Super Bowl week] through different eyes."
Some things left impressions.
The tailgating area at Levi's Stadium, for example, was fully tented and felt too cramped, Bausch said. "We're certainly going to be enclosed, so how do we make it more spacious?"
She added that it would be nice to offer fans more samples of local products, such as 3M Post-it notes.
Good flow is crucial
Host Committee spokeswoman Andrea Mokros noted the efficient way that fans were moved in and out of the stadium and from San Francisco, an hour away.
"We were on and off the freeway very fast, so we need to talk to them about how they did that," she said.
Although they weren't at the wrap-up news conference, local law enforcement officials were on hand all week. Minneapolis Police Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher, Minnesota's lead security planner, was accompanied by Deputy Chief Bruce Folkens and a major with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.
The Super Bowl requires massive security. All official events require security of varying degrees, including multiple checkpoints, pat-downs and bag checks. Heavily armed security officers patrol the events. Dogs trained to sniff out explosives are flown in with their handlers from around the country.
"People appreciate the show of force and sense of safety," Gerlicher said.
While the scope of the security is massive, however, both Folkens and Gerlicher emphasized that they're not starting with a blank board.
In recent years, the Twin Cities played host to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the Republican National Convention. For the Super Bowl, Gerlicher said, "The plans are the same, you've just got to have more people."
He noted that the NFL now has put on 50 Super Bowls, so "there's a lot of knowledge of the event." Before dawn on game day, Gerlicher and Folkens traveled to the stadium to see the operation unfold.
Private funds being raised
Minnesota's Super Bowl organizers say security costs will be covered by private fundraising, not taxpayers. The Minnesota host committee is working to raise more than $30 million to stage the event, which practically speaking begins a year from now with a rollout that will last for 52 weeks up until the big game.
Bausch said the host committee will send about 100 organizers, sponsors and government officials to Houston's event next year. They will wear bright blue shirts consistent with the Super Bowl LII logo.
The theme of Minnesota's event is "The Bold North," an unflinching embrace of the state's winter climate. But Bausch wants visitors in 2018 to come away with more than that.
"Our biggest goal is for it to not be about the cold. We want people to talk about the warmth and the elegance of the experience," she said.
To pull that off, everything has to be perfect.
A logistical miscalculation — such as waits of several hours to get back to the hotel, as has happened at prior Super Bowls — can cause enduring and unforgettable headaches.
"You can do 99 things well and people will talk about the one thing you didn't do well," Mokros said.
In a year's time, Bausch will be on the stage in Houston to take the ball from Goodell. On Monday, she was mulling over ways to do it in style.
"We have to somehow top the astronauts," she said.