For an event billed as a community pitch, the Twin Cities’ Super Bowl 2018 bid is looking more like a state secret.
Precious few details of the bid being submitted to NFL owners on Wednesday are public. Bid boosters say they have to stay mum lest they lose an edge to the high-level competition from New Orleans and Indianapolis.
Not only will they not talk about how much money they have to raise — an estimated several hundred thousand dollars to prepare the bid and $30 million if the Twin Cities gets the game — but they won’t reveal who’ll give the presentation to the 32 NFL owners in Atlanta before the vote May 20.
The NFL allows two officials from each city to give a closed-door presentation before the owners privately vote on who gets the game. Gov. Mark Dayton appointed three co-chairs for the bid committee: Richard Davis of U.S. Bank, Doug Baker of Ecolab and Marilyn Carlson Nelson of Carlson Cos. Early word is Davis and Carlson Nelson, who played a key role in bringing the last Super Bowl to the Twin Cities in 1992, will speak to the owners.
The three chairs plan to have a news conference to talk about the bid on Wednesday after the submission deadline. But reports are conflicting on what — if anything — they will share about the bid at the news conference — or ever. Meet Minneapolis, the city’s convention and tourism bureau, is physically preparing the bid.
The ballpark estimate is that the bid will cost several hundred thousand dollars to prepare with staff time and travel costs. It will be given to NFL owners and executives on iPads donated by Best Buy.
Kristen Montag, spokeswoman for Meet Minneapolis, said last week, “We still have to do the presentation in Atlanta, and we cannot share details prior to that as we are in competition with two other cities.”
Estimates of the economic benefits of hosting a Super Bowl range widely, from less than $100 million to more than $300 million. But boosters argue that the direct income pales in comparison to the public relations bonanza of having your city’s charms touted to millions of television viewers.
Meet Minneapolis is one of several taxpayer-subsidized and funded agencies working on the game, which would be played in a publicly subsidized $1 billion stadium scheduled to open for the 2016 season.
State and city employees also are working on the effort, including Michele Kelm-Helgen, the governor’s appointee as chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. In an interview Friday, she responded to questions carefully. “I know the bid is very large,” she said.
Kelm-Helgen said she spends roughly 10 percent of her time now on the bid. She was in the contingent that traveled to New York recently to confer with the NFL on details. Also working on the bid is Katie Clark Sieben, state commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Whether the details of the bid will ever become public remains unclear. Kelm-Helgen wasn’t sure — and no one else was talking. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league does not release the bids itself but does not prohibit their release.
The bids are extensive. Cities that want the game are expected to respond to some 180 pages of information sought by the NFL on topics ranging from venues for parties, the number of hotel rooms, transportation options from the airport, public transit availability and the number of limousines for lease.
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley, on the bid committee, deferred questions to the co-chairs, but denied that there was any secrecy surrounding the bid or the fundraising.
Behind the scenes, the committee leaders have been meeting with other high-level civic leaders — often at the Vikings preview center overlooking the construction site of the Minnesota Multipurpose Stadium. A Twin Cities ad agency has reportedly been working on marketing and a slogan for the bid, but even the employees working on it aren’t allowed to confer with colleagues. It’s not clear who is donating time and who is being paid.
The debate about economic benefits aside, taxpayers will face costs. For example, overtime pay for public safety was substantial when the Super Bowl came to the Metrodome in 1992, an era with much looser requirements for such things.
But the boosters of the 1992 game say money won’t be the deciding issue with the owners.
“The NFL, which is happy to take money any way they can, says you can’t buy the Super Bowl,” said Dave Mona, a retired public relations executive who helped lead the earlier effort.
Mona believes that what made the difference then was the back-scratching and deal-making among the owners by former Vikings general manager Mike Lynn. “In the end, it’s a political contest,” Mona said. “Remember who votes.”
The telegenic new NFL stadium is key. It’s the big stick owners can use on other regions to say: Build a stadium and you can get the Super Bowl, Mona said.
That’s been the case recently in other areas with the same two-year time frame.
AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, opened in 2009 in Arlington, Texas. The Super Bowl arrived in 2011. Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., opens this season. The Super Bowl arrives in 2016. The Minnesota facility opens in 2016. The cities want the 2018 game.
Twin Cities businessman Harvey Mackay was also part of the earlier effort. Mackay said he expects the bid committee will come up with a surprise. In 1992, that was the proposal for Taste of the NFL, bringing in 32 chefs from the league cities for a charity event. The event has become integral to Super Bowl weeks.
“You have to prove you’ve got a vibrant and dynamic community,” Mackay said. “Creativity also comes into play. … What they’ve got up their sleeves this time, I’m not sure. There’s always surprises.”
Mona dismissed the state of stealth surrounding the bid, calling it “silly,” adding, “The subject is of interest and there’s a certain amount of mystique, but it’s not as mysterious as it seems.”