Throughout four days of ridiculous stunts and live music, X Games organizers kept one eye toward the summer of 2018, when the party is scheduled to return to U.S. Bank Stadium.
Attendance announced at 110,000 came through the gates with the X Games coming to a close Sunday night. After thousands of pounds of dirt and concrete are loaded out, decisions will be made on the plan for next year. Changes and new ideas will be considered to keep interest high in extreme sports for the second round in Minneapolis.
“How do we keep that engagement going so in Year 2 so we have even more crowds?” said Patrick Talty, general manager for SMG, the stadium’s operator. “Because if they missed it this year, they’re not going to want to miss it next year.”
This weekend saw a “pretty successful” first run, said ESPN vice president Tim Reed, who praised the spacious stadium, outdoor plaza and Commons Park as a unique atmosphere for the well-traveled X Games. Nearly 200 athletes, some visiting Minneapolis for the first time, came through the stadium’s pivoting glass doors and left pleased with the weatherproof stage.
“This is unreal. I’m so stoked it was back inside,” skateboarder Elliot Sloan said. “We got another year here, possibly a third, I heard. Honestly it’s a pretty sick crowd. Not totally full, but maybe next year it will be.”
A unique setup
The X Games previously squeezed into Los Angeles or spread out across Austin, Texas. So the chance to showcase nearly every event and concert within a few-block radius provided a unique setup for fans, whether they planned to attend or simply strolled by.
Having the space inside U.S. Bank Stadium to host nearly every event on one floor, whether on a Moto X bike or a skateboard, was a first for the X Games, according to Reed.
“The ability for us to connect the sports, the music, the lifestyle all within the urban footprint,” Reed said. “We’ve never had the space here that’s available to us, which is cool.”
An affordable ticket, ranging from $20 to $30 per day, gave Minnesotans a chance to see the stadium up close for a better bargain than a Vikings game. Eighteen hours’ worth of broadcasts by ESPN and ABC further opened Minneapolis’ window to the world.
“Our city was exposed to people who might not have known much about us until now,” said Melvin Tennant, CEO of Meet Minneapolis. “Just seeing people from all across the country and the world gives me a great sense of pride.”
X Games course designs and the action sports themselves are tweaked every year. The Moto X Quarterpipe High Air, where riders test how high they can jump a 250-pound machine sideways, was introduced this year and closed out the games on Sunday afternoon.
“We’ll look to mix up the music, even all the festival elements we’ll take a look,” Reed said. “Regionally, are there other things we can think about from a sports perspective? Because that’s what typically changes.”
Stadium crews will aim to improve staffing at peak times after getting a feel for the flow of X Games crowds, Talty said. And with the stadium about four blocks from the Mississippi River, there could be more unique opportunities to expand the X Games in Minneapolis.
“I know they’re very excited about the fact we’re on major bodies of water with the river and the lakes,” Tennant said. “Might there be events related to water? I have no idea, but I’m hopeful.”
Super Bowl test run
Before extreme sports return, the American sports world’s biggest event will come to Minneapolis in February. Super Bowl attendance for the events and game is expected to exceed 1 million across 10 days.
So the four-day X Games festival provided a trial run for stadium operations, the Super Bowl Host Committee and the city’s medical services.
“In a lot of ways for us, because of the number of events over the week, it’s kind of a precursor to the Super Bowl,” said Michael Trullinger, Hennepin EMS deputy chief.
By the time the X Games depart, stadium crews will have spent nearly a month moving them in and out. That’s about the expected timeline when the NFL world descends on Minneapolis. The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee toured the setup with ESPN and stadium officials, learning how they set up the plaza and navigated traffic without many road closures, said committee vice president Kyle Chank.
X Games infrastructure also gave stadium crews new ideas, with camera angles and wiring exceeding technical needs for a typical Vikings game or concert.
“We’re really ecstatic, because we’ve learned things,” Talty said. “We’ve learned how the flow of the event works, so we’re going to be even better next year.”