The Vikings played in freezing conditions at Green Bay on Saturday night, and Peter O’Reilly, the head of special events for the NFL, knows that one of the big questions surrounding the upcoming Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium is the weather.
Historically the average high in Minneapolis on Feb. 4 is 25 degrees, while the average low is 8 degrees.
Still, O’Reilly said that as he meets with the host committee and various officials throughout the city, the temperature has quickly become one of his least concerns.
“Certainly it’s different and everyone talks about the weather, but everyone in Minneapolis and St. Paul knows how to deal with the weather,” O’Reilly said. “You certainly have to prepare and prepare for every contingency — like a big storm coming in — but the great part about being in a town like this is you know how to deal with it.
“I think the complications are that you have a beautiful U.S. Bank Stadium, but it is in such an urban campus there, we really have to think about how we use the space around the stadium and how we use all of the different areas, because it’s not like a traditional stadium. That’s what makes it special, it’s right in the heart of town.”
Now that the Vikings have clinched the NFC North, the question is how many home games they will get to play in the postseason. And while the shot at getting the No. 1 overall seed is a long one, the Eagles’ loss of quarterback Carson Wentz to injury has opened the door to a number of ways that the Vikings could play host to the NFC Championship Game, even as a No. 2 seed.
O’Reilly said that while the Vikings’ success has added a layer of difficulty to the operations of getting ready for the Super Bowl, he thinks it could also add a level of intrigue the game hasn’t seen before.
“It certainly is a factor and it would be clearly historic, it has never happened,” O’Reilly said of a team playing in its own stadium for the Super Bowl. “ Last year we had our first overtime Super Bowl and that was historic, down in Houston. That would be historic if the Vikings made a run towards the Super Bowl. We have been working closely with the Vikings through all the scenarios.
“For us, it won’t change anything dramatically. What it would do is change the timeline for how we would build out a number of the things that are unique to the Super Bowl in and around the stadium. We’re prepared for that and working closely with the Vikings. It would obviously be incredibly exciting.”
Signs of the times
O’Reilly spoke fondly of the last time Minneapolis played host to a Super Bowl, at the Metrodome on Jan. 26, 1992, it was a big turning point for the event.
That was the first year the league held Taste of the NFL, which was founded by and is still run by Twin Cities restaurateur Wayne Kostroski. For this year’s Super Bowl, the event will take place Feb. 3 at the St. Paul RiverCentre. 1992 was also the first year the league held the NFL Experience, which is now known as Super Bowl Experience and will take place at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
O’Reilly said that while he knows ticket prices for the game might be too steep for the average fan, he added that the Super Bowl Experience, and Super Bowl Live — a large collection of free events on Nicollet Mall — will be inclusive.
“I encourage all Minnesotans early in that first week to get your tickets [to Super Bowl Experience],” he said. “Those are reasonably priced, $35 for adults, $25 for kids. You can meet lots of players there, lots of activities, really feel a part of the game.
“Super Bowl Live, that 10-day free fan festival on Nicollet Mall will open on that Friday, January 26, and will have free concerts every night, so many activities that really embrace the Bold North. Then even the media center, the Super Bowl Media Center, will be at the Mall of America, and radio row is such a phenomenon. Fans will be able to go in there and see all of the stars and players who go through radio row for free, for that week out at Mall of America. Lots of ways for fans to experience the Super Bowl and get close to it, beyond the game on Sunday.”
One of the other big changes after Super Bowl XXVI was the creation of the more large-scale halftime act. At the Metrodome, the halftime show was called “Winter Magic” featuring Gloria Estefan and was a celebration of the Winter Olympics and winter in general. That game was on CBS, and to steal viewers, the Fox Network aired a live episode of “In Living Color” at halftime. The following year at the Rose Bowl, Michael Jackson was the Super Bowl halftime performer.
“We’re really excited to have Justin Timberlake, and the preparations for that are going really well for that show,” O’Reilly said.
“But the roster of musical talent who is going to be in town that week performing at some of the venues, the nomadic venues, performing live on Super Bowl Live, tributes to Prince, so many great musical acts are part of Super Bowl week. Just looking at that list, it’s probably the strongest list of musical performers that we’ve had in one place for the Super Bowl.”
• Twins President Dave St. Peter on how the team’s payroll changes drastically once first baseman Joe Mauer’s contract comes off the books after next season: “There’s certainly a lot of flexibility that will come past 2018 as you get into 2019, 2020 and 2021. That will be part of that discussion as we go forward. The reality is for us to be the type of sustained competitive team, we have to do a great job of drafting and developing players and bringing people through our system.”
• Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey on how he pitches free agents on coming to Minnesota: “We really look at the quality of our core. When you look at a young team that is budding — and we’ve talked about this all year long — this young core of position players, a few young pitchers who have really stepped up to help us, we’re at a stage now where we are taking that step forward.”
• Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino knew the team had high expectations coming into this season, but he hasn’t been surprised it has stumbled a bit at times. “We have an inexperienced bench. Isaiah [Washington] and Jamir [Harris] are certainly freshmen, Michael Hurt hasn’t played a lot in the past, Bakary [Konate] off and on and Davonte Fitzgerald has been injured for two years. Every opportunity we can get for those guys is valuable, those minutes are huge.”
• Veteran Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford on the consistent play of Jimmy Butler: “He does it every single game. I think that separates good players from the best players. They have the consistency to do it every single day.”
• If the Thunder ends up missing the NBA playoffs this season, the Wolves won’t get Oklahoma City’s pick for next year’s draft. That pick came from the Jazz over the summer for Ricky Rubio. The Wolves’ 2018 first-round pick is going to go to the Hawks, a deal that dates back to a trade for forward Adreian Payne by Flip Saunders. Payne is now with the Magic, getting recalled from the G League earlier this month.