HOUSTON – Dozens of Minnesotans have come to Houston this Super Bowl week, getting a last look at one of the world’s biggest events before it lands in the Twin Cities next year.
One is David Haselman, who as chief operating officer of Minnesota’s Super Bowl 2018 Host Committee is the logistical conductor of Minnesota’s hosting venues, traffic and backstage engineering. A year ago, at the big game in San Francisco, he was “wide-eyed … kind of like, ‘What on Earth?’ ” he said Thursday in the media lounge at the George R. Brown Convention Center. “There wasn’t so much of that this year.”
Haselman, along with several others from the Minnesota committee, arrived last Friday for the opening fireworks and light show in the grassy plaza in front of the convention center. The Minnesota team has rotated staff members, partners and sponsors through the week, but Haselman is staying in Houston through the official handoff of the ball at Monday’s postgame news conference.
As the next host, Minnesota has certain responsibilities. The aim of a party it threw Thursday night was to dazzle attendees so much that the energy carries back to Minnesota.
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, a South Dakota native with an abundance of fast-talking charm, energy and wit, spoke at the “Bold North Down South” party, set on a patio near a pond. The host committee wanted to create an “Up North” feel with a faux version of northern lights in the Bayou City, where the week’s temperatures brushed against 80.
At the party, Minnesota committee CEO Maureen Bausch talked of her hope for 28-degree weather and snow next year.
The menu was Minnesotan with a Texas twist: Cajun walleye sliders, jalapeño Jucy Lucy meatballs, pork on a stick, a s’mores-inspired dessert and chocolate truffles decorated in the Minnesota Super Bowl hues of blue and purple. The event’s special cocktail blended Belvedere vodka with lemonade, a dash of blueberry syrup and a soupçon of raspberry liqueur.
Committee chairs Marilyn Carlson Nelson and Richard Davis flew down for the event. Carlson Nelson led the elite movers and shakers in a “Skol” toast. And when the normally staid Davis took the stage, he said, “Is Minnesota in the house? Woot-woot! What-what-what?”
Under two dozen chandeliers doused in purple and blue light, the crowd returned to exuberant mingling as the DJ played “Kiss” by Prince, followed by Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga tunes.
For the Minnesotans, however, the party would be no late-night bacchanal. First thing Friday, they have a 30-minute commute from their airport hotel to downtown to board buses by 9 a.m. for a tour of all the Super Bowl venues.
The need for momentum and excitement isn’t just fun. It’s a practical requirement. When the host committee touches down back in Minnesota, it’ll start putting together a volunteer force of 10,000.
All of the Minnesotans are envisioning what they’ll be doing this time next year. Minneapolis sent a contingent of public safety officials who have been doing their own reconnaissance. Police are shadowing their Houston counterparts throughout the week.
Jill Renslow, senior vice president of business development and marketing at the Mall of America, was part of a megamall contingent that came in early in the week and left Thursday morning.
She noted that Houston and San Francisco are both bigger, more sprawling urban centers than the Twin Cities. In Minnesota, many of the major events like the NFL Experience and Super Bowl Live will be held in downtown Minneapolis.
“I think it’s going to feel really personalized and intimate in Minnesota, and I think there’s going to be a really special community connection,” Renslow said.
The Mall of America will host multiple events. Renslow said it’s well-suited to the task because it handles 40 million visitors a year.
“It’s fun to feel the energy of everybody ... and it’s like OK, what are we going to do in Minnesota?” Renslow said.
Haselman is trying to make sure Minnesotans take in as much as they can before the spotlight turns to the Bold North Super Bowl. “If you don’t understand it, it will blow you away when you try to do it,” he said.