Minneapolis, hospitality industry already big winners from getting Super Bowl

  • Article by: Eric Roper
  • Star Tribune
  • May 21, 2014 - 7:01 AM

The 2018 Super Bowl will bring millions of dollars in midwinter business to Minneapolis’ hospitality industry, but also exhibit a transformed city to an international audience.

“It puts Minneapolis and the Twin Cities in the national and international spotlight for that period of time,” Downtown Council President Steve Cramer said Tuesday after NFL owners chose Minneapolis over New Orleans and Indianapolis for the event. “And we’ll have a lot to showcase by then.”

In addition to the new $1 billion Vikings stadium, projects complete by then will include the Downtown East development, an overhaul of Nicollet Mall, a renovated Target Center, many new downtown high-rise apartment buildings and transit improvements. Nicollet Mall will become “Super Bowl Boulevard,” a base for ancillary activities.

Former Mayor R.T. Rybak, who was instrumental in securing the stadium deal, said the city should embrace and celebrate its winter culture.

“My hope is that we could pitch this as a northern Super Bowl that’s all about events like the City of Lakes Loppet and the Winter Carnival and Crashed Ice and the Pond Hockey Championship,” Rybak said. “An entire winter that shows the world that we get up and out and enjoy our theater of seasons.”

He added that many locals won’t be able to afford tickets to the event itself, but it nonetheless will serve as a “big bang” to the local hospitality industry.

“[It’s] the single best ‘Robin Hood’ industry we have,” Rybak said. “It’s about people who are washing the dishes in the kitchen, making the beds in the hotel, driving the taxi or the bus.”

City Council President Barb Johnson, who helped wrangle the votes to approve the stadium, said it’s good the event will fall during the winter months, which are traditionally sluggish for hotels.

“It’s in a down time for us. That’s not our hot time,” Johnson said. “So this is really a plus for the hospitality industry and everybody that lives off of these big events.”

Johnson added that studies by the group Meet Minneapolis have found that first-time visitors to the city generally enjoy themselves and make a return trip. “The hardest thing is getting them here the first time,” Johnson said.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said a host committee is doing private fundraising to cover “incremental costs,” including overtime for police. “To the taxpayer, there should be no cost,” Hodges said during an afternoon news conference.

Further details about that effort are expected to be released Wednesday afternoon during a State Capitol news conference.

Gov. Mark Dayton thanked the team that put together the pitch to bring the big game to town.

“Hosting the Super Bowl will provide a terrific opportunity to showcase Minnesota to the world,” he said. “It will also bring major economic benefits to our state.”

Just what those economic benefits are remain unclear. Cramer said he has heard that $80 million to $500 million will come to town with the big game. Independent economists have pegged the amount lower, between $30 million and $120 million, said Victor Matheson, an economics professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

“I’m not qualified to say what it is,” Cramer said. “But as a matter of common sense, you can’t imagine that literally tens of thousands of people are going to descend on your town who wouldn’t have otherwise been there in early February without having a substantial positive economic impact.”

City Council Member Jacob Frey said the event “could be the springboard for our city into world-class status.” He imagines visitors taking the light rail into downtown, where they see a newly renovated Nicollet Mall, a new streetcar line and the Yard — a planned park — beside the new Vikings stadium.

“I am beyond pumped,” Frey said. “Bring it on.”


Staff writer Jon Tevlin contributed to this report. Eric Roper • 612-673-1732

Twitter: @StribRoper

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