With a new Minnesota Vikings stadium now being built, Gov. Mark Dayton turned Monday to the National Football League to make good on a vague promise to give the state a second Super Bowl.
The governor announced a campaign to lobby the NFL for a Super Bowl at the new stadium for as early as 2018, and speculated that the game would produce nearly a half-billion dollars for the area. Just hours after Dayton outlined the effort, the NCAA announced that the Vikings’ indoor stadium — which will open in 2016 — was also a finalist to host a Final Four men’s basketball tournament as early as 2017.
“It’s our time. It’s our moment, and we’re ready,” said U.S. Bancorp Chief Executive Richard Davis, one of three prominent business leaders Dayton named to head the campaign. “It’s like in Hollywood when they say, ‘I’m ready for my close-up.’ ”
For Dayton and the Vikings, the State Capitol news conference came two years after both the governor and the team used the lure of a Super Bowl to persuade legislators to adopt a controversial public subsidy package for the $1 billion stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Vikings officials said they are confident that the NFL, as it has done in the past, will award the game to Minnesota as an acknowledgment of the new stadium. Both the team and the NFL implied, but did not directly commit to, bringing a Super Bowl to Minnesota during the legislative process.
While Minnesota is already one of three finalists for the Super Bowl in 2018, hurdles — both logistical and image-related — remain for the Vikings, Dayton and civic leaders. Monday’s lobbying effort came as most schools in Minnesota were closed because of the cold, and the temperature Monday never reached zero. The 2018 Super Bowl will be held Feb. 4.
Monday’s campaign launch also immersed boosters into the always-murky debate of how much actual economic boost a Super Bowl would provide. While the governor’s office released a study showing the Super Bowl had produced $384 million in spending in Indianapolis in 2012, economists nationally have regularly disputed such projections.
This Sunday’s Super Bowl at an open-air stadium in New Jersey may also affect Minnesota’s chances: Weather for the game is expected to be in the 30s, and the New York City area recently had a major snowfall. Even Dayton, at a morning news conference Monday, joked that the NFL “might want to reconsider their policy after this one.”
But the governor said that Minneapolis, in hosting its first and only Super Bowl in 1992, had won high praise from NFL officials and had erased the negative feelings of having a Super Bowl in a northern city that lingered after a snowstorm snarled traffic in Detroit at the 1982 Super Bowl at the Silverdome, a covered stadium. “We’ve proven it in Minnesota already,” Dayton said. “We know how to handle a cold-weather” Super Bowl.
That effort was given an indirect boost Monday when the NCAA announced that Minneapolis was one of eight finalists to host a Final Four men’s basketball championship for 2017 through 2020. The Metrodome was the host for the men’s Final Four in both 1992 and 2001. A decision is expected in November.
No handout from lawmakers
Dayton said he would not ask state legislators to use public money to assist in the fundraising effort to lure the Super Bowl — Dallas reportedly spent nearly $40 million. A Vikings spokesman said Dayton would be in New York City this week to meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and a state official later Monday confirmed that taxpayers would be paying for Dayton’s New York City trip.
State Republicans used Dayton’s Super Bowl announcement to jab at the governor, who is seeking re-election and whose stadium support has been a major issue in his first term. The state pledged $498 million to the stadium and began marketing $468 million in bonds for the stadium Monday. Details of that sale are expected Tuesday.
Saying that the governor “once again is distracted” by the Vikings stadium, House Assistant Minority Leader Paul Torkelson questioned the need for Monday’s news conference. “Bringing a Super Bowl to Minnesota was supposed to be a foregone conclusion with a new stadium agreement,” said Torkelson.
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said a steering committee, including Bagley, would be in New Jersey to watch the Super Bowl preparations, and that the application to host the game contained 190 pages. In order to be considered to host the game, officials said Monday, a metropolitan area must have at least 19,000 hotel rooms that are available for a four-night stay.
Even though New Orleans — along with Indianapolis, the two other finalists — has hosted 10 Super Bowls, officials in Minnesota said they were confident. “We have a lot to be proud of,” said Doug Baker, chief executive officer of Ecolab, who was named by Dayton to lead the campaign. Baker said attending the 1992 game in Minneapolis was “a thrill of a lifetime.” Also named to the campaign was former Carlson Cos. CEO Marilyn Carlson Nelson.
Minnesota hosted its only Super Bowl in January 1992 at the Metrodome, with the Washington Redskins beating the Buffalo Bills, 37-24. The Vikings have played in four Super Bowls, losing all of them.
Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388