May 25, 1989: Super Bowl XXVI: 'Nobody gave us a snowball's chance'

  • Article by: ROBERT SANSEVERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 1989 - 12:26 PM

Minnesota wins bidding contest for '92 game.

An NFL executive nodded in approval to Gov. Rudy Perpich, who dashed into the next room to relay the surprising news that Minnesota had been awarded the 1992 Super Bowl.

In his excitement over helping to bring the Super Bowl to a northern city for only the second time, Perpich playfully punched his wife on the shoulder a few times and gave her a tap on the chin.

Earlier Wednesday, the governor had helped deliver the knockout punch during a 15-minute presentation that aided Minnesota's bid for Super Bowl XXVI.

The game will be held Jan. 26, 1992, in the Metrodome. It was awarded to Minnesota on the sixth round of balloting by National Football League owners, who rejected bids from Detroit, Indianapolis and Seattle.

"Nobody gave us a snowball's chance in hell," Vikings general manager Mike Lynn said. "But our proposal matched up well."

During the Minnesota presentation, which included a 10 1/2-minute video, Perpich reminded owners that he and others have been lobbying for a Super Bowl for the past five years. Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said the Minnesota presentation was the strongest of the four by the competing cities.

Moments after the delegation made its pitch, Perpich was so confident that he said: "We're going to get it."

Each of the four bids proposed gross revenues to the league of about $10 million, mostly from ticket sales. Minnesota's budgeted expenses for staging the game will be about $4.5 million, with Lynn saying he hopes most of it can be raised from the private sector.

Lynn said that being host to the Super Bowl could be worth more than $100 million to the local economy, about $50 million less than the usual take for warm-weather cities.

Seattle and Indianapolis were eliminated in the first two ballots, leaving Minnesota and Detroit, which had been host to the only other northern-tier Super Bowl in 1982. Bowlen and NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle said the fact that Detroit already had held the Super Bowl probably helped Minnesota's cause.

"I'd say some of them thought as long as we're going north we should move it around," Rozelle said.

Seattle had the fewest votes on the first ballot and dropped out of contention, followed by Indianapolis on the second ballot. Minnesota defeated Detroit by a simple majority on the sixth ballot.

The final tally was not released, and the ballots, which were cast and counted secretly, were burned. The only owners who knew the vote were conference presidents Wellington Mara and Lamar Hunt, who did the counting.

If any city had received 21 votes on any of the first five ballots, it would have been awarded the game. After that, a majority vote was required.

Lynn said the Twin Cities' margin of victory was slight. He had Minnesota getting 15 votes in a straw poll he took before arriving in New Orleans. He figured Detroit or Seattle would be the other finalist.

Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, head of the Super Bowl search committee, said Minnesota's pluses included the proximity of major hotels, easy accessibility from its major airport and two indoor practice facilities, the Vikings' Winter Park complex and the University of Minnesota's Bierman building.

In the other three cities, the Super Bowl teams would have had to practice in the domed stadiums.

Minnesota was the only representative to have other team executives voice support. New Orleans Saints president Jim Finks, once the Vikings' general manager, and Miami Dolphins vice president Tim Robbie, whose father, Joe, owns the Dolphins, each spoke in behalf of Minnesota.

Finks told the owners that Minnesota has made positive contributions to the NFL since joining in 1961 and noted the Vikings were the first expansion team to play in the Super Bowl.

Finks' onetime boss, former Vikings owner Max Winter, was part of the videotape presentation. The camera started with a tight shot of Winter, who said it always has been his dream to have a Super Bowl in Minnesota. The camera pulled back to show Winter sitting alone in the Metrodome. He told owners that he wasn't planning to leave until the Super Bowl came to Minnesota, and, gesturing to an empty seat, he said, "I'll save a seat for you."

Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, along with Perpich and task force chairwoman Marilyn Nelson, spoke to the owners. Boschwitz said that before becoming a senator he had built Plywood Minnesota with three elements - quality, value and service. He promised the NFL that the same elements would go into staging the Super Bowl.

Minnesota made the first presentation, followed by Detroit, Seattle and Indianapolis. Lynn, who spoke with all 27 owners in the days leading to the vote, then led a floor debate by reminding the owners that it was he who had lobbied in 1985 to put the Super Bowl in a northern-tier city.

Lynn fought at the 1985 spring owners meeting to bring the Super Bowl north after Minnesota had failed in four attempts to gain the game. Minnesota was one of four finalists in 1984 for the 1987 and 1988 Super Bowls, which went to Pasadena's Rose Bowl and San Diego. In March 1985, Minnesota was turned down as a site for the 1989 and 1990 Super Bowls, which went to Miami and New Orleans.

"Five years ago, Mike pushed for the idea to get a northern-tier city. The feeling was that Mike was a moving force. There was a lot of sentiment for him," Bowlen said.

Said Nelson: "Mike did more than anyone will ever know. What he did last time was a miracle. . . . The league didn't want to go north."

Bowlen said that Seattle might have been hurt by having a new owner, Ken Behring, who hasn't yet developed strong ties with other owners, and that Indianapolis might have been hurt by being a relatively new NFL city.

Earlier in the day, at a preliminary meeting with the Super Bowl search committee, it appeared that Minnesota's bid might be weakened after the NFL told task force members it could not accept a bid that included a $1 million guarantee for parking. The figure was knocked down to about $450,000 to cover game-day parking, $200,000 for press facilities and $100,000 for game-day expenses.

Seattle's $1.5 million guarantee to help defray league costs was whittled down by about a million. Neither Detroit nor Indianapolis offered similar financial guarantees.

The NFL viewed the figures as "definitely an enticement," according to NFL director of special events Jim Steeg. "It was an excess amount of money to buy the game," Steeg said. "There was sentiment in the room (the NFL) didn't want to sell the Super Bowl."

Nelson said the $1 million guarantee was to make up for the revenue that Detroit's Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., could provide over the Metrodome because of its 9,000-seat edge. With temporary seats, the Metrodome can expand capacity to 71,619.

Lynn said the "big news" was that he was prepared to offer NFL owners 7,000 seats allocated for Vikings ticket holders if anyone questioned the difference in seating between Detroit and Minnesota.

"Nobody asked and I didn't have to use it," he said. "If I had to give up all the season-ticket holders' tickets, I wouldn't have been too popular in Minnesota. But if it was the price we had to pay to get the Super Bowl, I would've done it."

Lola Perpich emerged unscathed from her husband's happy horseplay after the announcement. "I've learned to dodge his punches," she said.

"I did it one time at a hockey game," the governor said, "and almost knocked her out."

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