Once upon a time, Minneapolis was in line to host the triple crown of neutral-site sporting events: the Super Bowl, Final Four and College Football Playoff championship game.
The city has checked off the first two with last year’s NFL event and this past weekend’s college basketball showcase. But 2020 has only the X Games and NCAA wrestling championship on the schedule.
Back in November 2015, Minneapolis lost its bid for the 2020 CFP, the game instead going to New Orleans. Two years later, the CFP skipped a formal bid process, instead negotiating directly with four cities to host 2021-24. The playoff committee made it a goal for one of those four cities to be a northern one, making the bold choice to move the game out of its traditional southern home.
It was the wrong apolis, though. Indianapolis took the 2022 game, meaning Minneapolis will have to wait until 2025 or later for another chance to knock a big sporting event off its bucket list.
Target Center will be host to the women's Final Four in 2022.
During the men's Final Four, CFP executive director Bill Hancock was in town and reflected on what kept Minneapolis from winning the past two rounds of selection as well as what its future chances might be. Hancock, who also coordinated the 1992 and 2001 Final Fours in the Metrodome, said many of his good feelings about the city remain unchanged. But many abstracts have also solidified since that bid process for 2020.
U.S. Bank Stadium, the venue for the Super Bowl and Final Four, is no longer in construction phase. The light rail is fully functional. And the city, as of this week, has a proven track record of successfully hosting major events in that “world-class” stadium.
But when the committee decided on Indianapolis, most of that was unproven. And Indianapolis boasted an established stadium, more walkable footprint from hotels to Lucas Oil Stadium as well as experience hosting major events, like a Super Bowl and two Final Fours. Plus, winter weather was less of a concern.
“It was more what Indianapolis had to offer than it was what Minneapolis didn’t have to offer,” Hancock said.
Hancock also said it’s probably better if a city doesn’t host any combination of the Super Bowl, Final Four and CFP back-to-back-to-back, as it “does stress the resources of the city in terms of finances and also in terms of volunteer manpower.” He estimated a city’s investment for hosting a CFP as $12 million to $16 million, though cities expect to make that back in tourism dollars. Only a few cities have pulled that off in conjunction with a Final Four and Super Bowl, such as Phoenix from 2015-17 and Atlanta from 2018-20.
Hancock said the next decision for potential venues is still two or three years away, and he’s unsure what the bid process would even be. So it’s “too soon to tell” if Minneapolis could be on the radar. He’s not even sure if the CFP will double down on another northern city game, as he wants to see how Indianapolis goes first. Though he did say only northern venues with roofs are in contention.
Minneapolis has a few other things going for it: a really good airport, easy transportation from it to downtown hotels as well as walking and bike paths. But one possible area of improvement Hancock will look for would be a concentrated coalition among sectors like the city, the public, local business, the stadium, owners of local pro sports teams and the university.
Hancock recalled how proud he was of the 1992 and 2001 Final Fours as he watched new visitors to Minneapolis “fall in love” with the city and how much it has to offer.
“It’s a special place,” Hancock said. “I don’t know whether our game will come here. I just don’t know. But the stadium and the light rail and the hotels put the city in a good light for all of us in college sports.”