The Super Bowl is still more than six months away from coming to Minneapolis. But for those involved with the planning of the event — who have the date Feb. 4, 2018, burned into their brains — the game is hurtling toward them at a high rate of speed.
They are in the business of avoiding last-minute surprises, which explains what at least a few curious folks in downtown Minneapolis saw last Thursday: the testing of NFL Network’s MediaCruiser, a portable set on wheels that will make its formal debut next month during Hall of Fame induction weekend and will be featured prominently during Thursday Night Football and then the Super Bowl.
“The impetus of it is that at every Super Bowl and NFL draft we spend a lot of hours at a site, and we build a set to suit each one,” said Dave Shaw, vice president of operations and engineering for NFL Media. “When we were looking at the Super Bowl this time, we liked the idea of potentially being able to pick this thing up and move it and make it mobile.”
So the concept was sent out for bids. The base for the MediaCruiser was built in New Berlin, Wis., while the roof was built in Los Angeles. The parts merged together to form what looks like an Airstream trailer — but one that transforms and opens up almost like a clamshell to accommodate a broadcast set.
Shaw declined to disclose the final price tag, noting only that it was more than $1 million.
“It should pay for itself in a certain amount of time,” he added.
But the NFL still wanted to see it opened up at arguably its most important venue — Minneapolis — so it was driven over from Wisconsin, parked at the corner of Nicollet Mall and 11th Street, leveled off and opened up on a sunny July morning.
The expectation is that the MediaCruiser will be parked at that exact spot starting the Monday of Super Bowl week, with the possibility of moving to a spot outside U.S. Bank Stadium as the game gets closer.
“I think we learned what kind of footprint it needs. We learned that placement is the biggest thing. There are some specific things we need to modify, but there’s nothing we can’t accomplish,” Shaw said of the test. “We’re actually very excited about it. When we open it up, it’s a nice presence and a great spot that our talent can get used to.”
More pizazz will be added in the interim as well. The tow vehicle, which can also accommodate more on-camera talent, will have two giant flat screen monitors and other graphic elements.
Super Bowl host committee members seemed impressed by the rollout last week. They’ll get to see it all again a little more than six months from now.
“We’ve been working with the host committee for many months,” Shaw said. “We like to be out in front of it.”