With Super Bowl LII in their pocket, Minnesota’s top sports and hospitality officials are hoping to use the momentum to land a host of other major sporting events.
The announcement that the new Minnesota Vikings stadium will be the site of the Super Bowl in 2018 is being viewed as a boost to a current bid to land college basketball’s Final Four, will likely bring new energy to a failed attempt to host the upcoming college football playoffs and perhaps put Minneapolis in the mix for the Big Ten football championship.
The most immediate benefit could involve the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball tournament, which was held this year in the Dallas Cowboys’ football stadium and will be held next year at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Earlier this month, Minneapolis submitted its formal bid — the city is already a finalist, and has hosted the Final Four before — to play the Final Four at the new Vikings stadium in 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020. A decision is expected in November.
“Cleary, it puts us in the game for any major event,” Melvin Tennant, president of Meet Minneapolis, the city’s convention and visitor’s group, said of hosting the Super Bowl. “This opens up a lot of doors for us.” Tennant said that, just hours after the Super Bowl was awarded to Minnesota on Tuesday, officials from the NCAA, the governing body for college sports, and the college football playoffs called to offer congratulations.
In a sign of the city’s new aggressiveness regarding sports events, Meet Minneapolis earlier this month launched Sports Minneapolis, a new affiliate specifically created to lure more sporting events to the city. Meet Minneapolis board chair Rob Moor, who is also the chief executive officer for the Minnesota Timberwolves, said Sports Minneapolis would aim to “leverage our communities’ incredible investment in world class facilities.”
College football playoffs
Though no other sporting event in America tops the media attention of the Super Bowl, Tennant said the new college football playoffs are now again on Minneapolis’ radar. The championship games for the first three years — 2015, 2016 and 2017 — were recently awarded to Dallas, Arizona and Tampa, and Minneapolis’ bid to be part of the initial playoff format was rejected.
Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, said Minneapolis would likely not be considered for the 2018 college football championship because the city would already be hosting the Super Bowl.
“It would be too taxing for a city to host two events as significant as the Super Bowl and the playoff championship game in a one-month period,” he said.
“It’s hard to say whether the Super Bowl will help or hurt Minnesota’s chances of hosting the college football playoff in the near term,” Hancock added in an e-mail. “We will look forward to seeing the stadium in operation,” referring to the nearly $1 billion Vikings stadium scheduled to open in 2016.
Getting a college football playoff game is also complicated because the semifinal rounds, at least for now, are tied to the traditional year-end bowl games, such as the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl.
But Tennant said that Minneapolis officials are hoping to follow the precedent being set in Dallas, where the relatively-new Cowboys’ stadium has already hosted a Super Bowl and a Final Four and will host the college football playoff championship game in January.
Return of the Final Four?
There also was caution regarding the men’s Final Four from David Worlock, the media and statistics coordinator for the NCAA. Being the Super Bowl host in 2018 “does not impact the chances for hosting the men’s Final Four as the two events are independent and have different requirements.” He said the NCAA last fall helped Minneapolis “build [their] best bid,” and the city was named a finalist in January.
The Big Ten championship football game, which began in 2011 and will be held in Indianapolis until at least 2015, could also be in the mix for Minneapolis. In meetings just last week, Commissioner Jim Delany said he would like the game to remain centrally located — most of the Big Ten schools, including Minnesota, are in the Midwest. Worlock said the Big Ten was not taking bids for where the game will be held in 2016 and beyond, but said recommendations could come before conference officials shortly.
“We have a strong interest,” said Tennant.
Landing the Big Ten basketball tournament — at least at the new Vikings stadium — could be more problematic. Since its first year in 1998, the tournament has been held in either Chicago or Indianapolis. In 2017, the tournament will be played at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. — a nod to the fact that the Big Ten is adding two East Coast teams, Rutgers and Maryland.
Brett McWethy, Big Ten’s associate director of communications, said the tournament has typically been held in basketball arenas with seating capacities of roughly 20,000, and not in larger football stadiums. “It’s been more toward [National Basketball Association] arenas,” he said.
Marc Ryan, an associate athletic director at the University of Minnesota said, however, that all things are possible with Minnesota now hosting a Super Bowl in sparkling new stadium. “Without question, having a state-of-the-art facility, with all the bells and whistles, makes your bid that much more attractive,” he said.
Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388