Years of planning and work are about to fulfilled as Minneapolis takes advantage of the showcase that is the Midsummer Classic.
Long before Tuesday night’s first All-Star pitch at Target Field comes the first whiff.
Taxis have been stocked with special air freshener, hoping to give thousands of baseball aficionados visiting this week a sweet-smelling first impression as they hail airport cabs. Then there are the 5,700 linear feet of red carpet, deep-cleaned and ready for unrolling as the players head to the ballpark.
Those are just a couple of the countless details culminating from nearly two years of planning for the highest profile event to hit the Twin Cities since John McCain, Sarah Palin and a bunch of anarchists came to town for the 2008 Republican National Convention. Event planners say it’s a critical prelude to the 2018 Super Bowl.
And just how cool we are — literally. Forecasters say temperatures will dip into the 60s for Tuesday’s game. But 2014’s frequent and historic rainfalls aren’t expected to dampen or postpone the festivities.
No longer simply a nine-inning exhibition, the All-Star Game has mushroomed into a massive baseball convention, TV production, fan frenzy and corporate hoedown. There’s a Nike-sponsored 5K at the State Fairgrounds for 25,000 runners Sunday morning, then one of ESPN’s top-rated summer programs: the Home Run Derby on Monday Night. Throw in a showcase of minor-league phenoms Sunday, a 400,000-square-foot FanFest at the Convention Center and Monday night’s invitation-only gala for 5,000 along the Mississippi River near the Mill City Museum, among other soirees.
“Usually my beverage manager is ordering cases of things, but this week it’s pallets,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, D’Amico Catering’s top event planner.
A green line has been spray-painted on sidewalks from the Convention Center to Target Field, where head groundskeeper Larry DiVito has been sleeping on a cot in his office behind the center-field wall in case he needs to do some midnight fertilizing. He has a 10-page MLB agenda and has had to adjust mowing heights to make room for a new All-Star logo.
Those six blocks of red carpet, meanwhile, will be unrolled on Nicollet Mall for Tuesday’s 1 p.m. parade to the ballpark for baseball’s finest from their Hyatt Regency Hotel, where a few rooms were still available recently — at $360 a night.
Economic benefits squishy
Meet Minneapolis, the city’s convention boosters, forecasts a $75 million boost from spending by the 160,000 visitors — but it offers no breakdown of those gaudy numbers. Kristen Montag, the group’s spokeswoman, said Major League Baseball has booked 14,000 hotel rooms, not counting regular fans showing up.
“All those people have to eat and they’ll rent cars, purchase souvenirs and leave a chunk of their wallets here,” said Kevin Smith, a Twins executive supervising the broadcasting arm of the event.
The last time the All-Stars came to the Midwest — Kansas City in 2012 — officials reported a $58 million windfall. Nearly half that money was spent on tickets.
Unlike Super Bowls, where the bulk of the crowd comes from elsewhere, two-thirds of the 40,000 fans at Tuesday’s game will be from the area, Smith said. Twins season-ticket holders were offered first crack at tickets to all the events. Seats to the game are going for an average of $675 in the secondary market on StubHub.com and other sites, with the best seats hitting $1,500 and standing room going for about $275.
“It costs a lot of money to put this thing on, and ticket prices basically pay for the production of the All-Star Game,” Smith said.
He said the Twins hope to break even, funneling more than $600,000 back to Minneapolis coffers in entertainment taxes and leaving $8 million behind in charitable giving.
Some experts question the robust predictions.
“The economic impact will be quite small to be honest,” said Mark Rosentraub, a sports management professor at the University of Michigan.
With one-third of the fans coming from out of town, he said, there will be a boost. But unlike the Super Bowl, which will come in the dead of winter when hotels and caterers in Minnesota are hibernating, the All-Star Game comes when many hotels and event planners would have been busy with weddings and summertime tourists anyway.