An Ice Palace. The Dave Matthews Band. A giant bottle of wine.
The big game may be happening across the river, but St. Paul is still vying for a piece of the Super Bowl madness that will descend on the Twin Cities — the biggest to-do to hit the capital city since the 2008 Republican National Convention. With an array of events and winter attractions, St. Paul is aiming to show off what it has to offer, including plenty that Minneapolis doesn’t have.
“Visitors coming in hear ‘Twin Cities’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, two cities that are the same,’ ” said Adam Johnson, vice president of marketing and media relations for Visit St. Paul. “We’re kind of saying, well, close to each other, but more DeVito-Schwarzenegger than Ashley-Mary Kate, if we’re going to use twins analogies.”
Johnson said his chain of Super Bowl-related e-mails stretches back to July 2016, when Visit St. Paul started informing venues around the city that the NFL was putting together a database of potential party spots.
Jack Larson, vice president and general manager for Xcel Energy Center, said the Super Bowl Host Committee asked that St. Paul venues hold a block of dates for the NFL when Minneapolis was awarded the game in 2014. Though most events will be concentrated in downtown Minneapolis, downtown St. Paul has a full schedule of events, some football-related and some not, during the week leading up to game day at U.S. Bank Stadium.
On Jan. 29, 6,000 people will attend the sold-out Super Bowl Opening Night event at Xcel Energy Center. On Feb. 2, hockey fans can see the Wild take on Las Vegas. And on Feb. 3, the eve of the big game, the Dave Matthews Band is playing a sold-out show at Xcel, and the RiverCentre is holding the Taste of the NFL — a Super Bowl tradition that began in 1992, when Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl at the Metrodome.
Showcasing the (cold) city
Only a handful of Super Bowls have been held in cities with real, freezing winters, and St. Paul is taking advantage of the opportunity to show off the season. “We may not be a sunny locale, but we’ve got a lot going on,” said Johnson.
Visitors to CHS Field, home of the minor league St. Paul Saints baseball team, will be able to take a trip down a 40-foot snowslide. A winter night market will occupy the St. Paul Farmers Market site. And then, of course, there’s the St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace.
A funding shortage almost derailed this year’s palace, but enough last-minute donors stepped in and the seven-story structure is expected to be ready to go when the carnival kicks off Thursday.
For those looking to escape the cold, Visit St. Paul is recommending spots to grab a drink or a bite to eat, pairing each of the 32 NFL teams with a dish from a local eatery. Gunning for the Patriots? Check out the New England clam chowder at Kincaid’s. Mourning the Saints? Sate your sorrows with the fried catfish po’boy from Vieux Carré. Crossing your fingers and toes for the Vikings? You get two choices: the Juicy Nookie Burger at The Nook or the walleye at Tavern on Grand.
And even though evenings will be cold and dark, city officials are hopeful that visitors won’t split once the sun goes down — unlike during the relatively sleepy RNC.
“We’re expecting a good show,” said Council Member Rebecca Noecker, whose ward includes downtown.
Bars and restaurants that receive a special permit will be able to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. during Super Bowl weekend, two hours later than the usual closing time. The city has already gotten more than a dozen applications and is expecting more, Noecker said.
There will be an increased police presence downtown until 4 a.m. that weekend, Noecker said. The city is also making an effort to spruce up the skyways by reminding the building owners who own and manage the network to put their best foot forward for the Super Bowl crowds, she said.
It’s not clear quite how big those crowds will be, but officials say hotels in the city are expected to be full. The St. Paul Hotel downtown has been booked solid from Jan. 30 through Feb. 4 for more than six months, said Pete Zellmer, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.
But visitors without a room can still get in on the fun. On Jan. 27, a public Super Bowl kickoff event at the St. Paul Grill will feature an 18-liter bottle of cabernet — about 100 (6-ounce) glasses of wine, Zellmer said.
“And then it’s kind of off to the races,” he said.