He walked into the old Minneapolis Armory when it still had holes in the roof and “pigeon crap everywhere” and thought it the perfect place to host some of his pre-eminent, high-dollar Super Bowl parties. He drove a half-hour out of Minneapolis to Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, looked at a parking lot and decided it would make a great location for more “white-glove” VIP events around the big game.
Jack Murphy followed similar audacious hunches to reshape the party scene around recent Super Bowls in Houston and San Francisco, where he brought big-name performers Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and the Dave Matthews Band to “pop-up venues” with partners such as DirecTV and Pepsi.
He has even more ambitious plans for shindigs in the Twin Cities that could have a lasting impact on the nightlife scene, helping launch an ambitious new venue downtown while lending national exposure to the biggest casino complex in the state. And the good news for local residents is: We’re all invited. The events are VIP-flavored and generally pricey, but they are open to the general public.
“I saw this void where the local community puts out a whole lot of effort to get the Super Bowl to their city, but if you’re not on the corporate side of it you’re not a part of the fun,” said Murphy, president of New York-area Nomadic Entertainment Group.
A partner with the National Football League — it was purchased last year by the NFL’s hospitality company On Location Experiences — Murphy’s company has ambitious, Vegas-glitzy plans for the downtown Armory and Mystic Lake. Each will operate for one week only under the brand Club Nomadic.
The Nomadic crews are currently dealing in cement, metal and dust, working to complete their pair of hi-fi concert venues by late January. Over the next few weeks, they will announce arena- and stadium-level entertainers picked for the parties, many selected in conjunction with Super Bowl advertisers.
Mystic Lake has already unveiled country stars Florida Georgia Line, who played Target Field this past summer, as the headliner of its Feb. 3 bash in a makeshift 65,000-square-foot, 9,000-person facility.
The venue’s concrete floors, winterized metallic walls and VIP balconies will take shape in the coming weeks at a price tag in “the high seven figures,” said Murphy. And then it will all be torn down starting the week after the big game.
“It’s the Super Bowl, so we’re thinking super thoughts,” said Johnny Mackin, director of brand marketing at Mystic Lake.
Representatives from Mystic Lake — 25 miles from downtown Minneapolis in Prior Lake and owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community — courted Nomadic after seeing what Murphy’s company accomplished in Houston with Swift’s and Mars’ appearances in a similar temporary venue.
Picking up the bulk of the price tag for its multimillion-dollar events, Mystic Lake is gambling on these parties as a rare nationwide marketing opportunity simply because they’re timed to the Super Bowl.
“Long-term, we believe this could put us on the same level as some of the best-known [gaming] destinations in the country,” Mackin said.
For the armory, the lasting impact of its Super Bowl LII parties is a lot more tangible: Nomadic is actually helping the Armory’s new owner piece the place together and pay for some of the sound and lighting equipment and other features, which will be used long-term in the 1930s-era building’s new life as a concert and event space.
After decades of deterioration, the Armory was bought for that purpose at a $6 million cost in 2015 by Minneapolis developer and veteran nightclub owner Ned Abdul of Swervo Development Corp.
“He has really smart and exciting ideas there, and we’re proud to help him achieve them,” Murphy said of Abdul, who did not respond to interview requests.
A 27-year veteran of branding and event planning, Murphy has experience and contacts in the sports, music, marketing and casino worlds, which makes him well-suited to host such parties.
He frequently refers to his events as having “Las Vegas-level hospitality.” He said he even plans to fly in “about 60 waitresses from Vegas” to work the Club Nomadic parties in Minnesota.
While he can come off as a braggart — his publicist took umbrage after the Star Tribune did not credit Club Nomadic’s Florida Georgia Line party as “his brainchild” — Murphy does have a track record to back up his bold plans.
In Houston, his company left behind a lot of impressed neighbors and civic leaders after his three parties in an artsy, warehouse-lined part of the city’s First Ward, where Nomadic appeased concerns over traffic and noise.
“They brought a lot of people into the area, and by the end of it everyone here seemed pleased with the arrangement,” said Kathryn Holler, co-owner of Holler Brewing.
“You could tell it wasn’t their first rodeo, and they knew how to do things very efficiently and effectively,” said Mandy McGowen, president of the First Ward Civic Council, who also attended two of the Nomadic parties.
Murphy is definitely out to impress. He promised “high-end technology, art, food and music” and a lot of surprises at the February parties. In Houston, for instance, Club Nomadic surprised attendees with an unannounced Snoop Dogg performance after the main headliner.
General admission tickets start around $200 to these events, but admission can reach well over $10,000 via different ticket packages that also include travel, lodging and seats to the game.
“I’m not the guy to do a Target Center concert or a festival; I’m the guy to create a unique experience for the artist and the audience alike,” he said, justifying the higher prices.
Murphy even bragged that many of his now-regular high-roller customers, including sports figures and other celebrities, sometimes fly in just for his parties and leave town Sunday morning, not even bothering to catch the football game.
“A lot of my crowd doesn’t even care about the game,” he said. “They’re coming to Minnesota just to have fun.”