While the X Games are expected to attract thousands to downtown Minneapolis this week, they will also create a logistical quagmire for people who work and do business at the neighboring Hennepin County Government Center.
As a result, most court calendars will either be drastically curtailed or eliminated on Friday because of transportation and parking issues caused by U.S. Bank Stadium's proximity. Calendars involving domestic abuse, child support, mental health and housing will have a judge available on a limited basis.
The X Games will be an important test run for when the Super Bowl comes in February, bringing an estimated 1 million visitors over a 10-day period.
"It's a nightmare for all of us," said Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty. "Our criminal justice partners have been meeting for several months about this."
Defendants already in custody will make their scheduled appearances, and no jury trials will be impacted. But Moriarty has concerns about staff trying to get to work because of road closures, construction and parking restrictions.
"Anytime you limit access to the courts, it's not a good thing," she said.
Deputy Public Defender Jeanette Boerner said the court has been "pretty magnificent" in listening to her office's concerns of ensuring the best interest of its clients. They have approved all changes, and staffing won't be compromised during the X Games, she said.
Jump in transit riders
Light-rail and bus service shouldn't be impacted except for the increased volume of passengers. Because of the potential difficulties getting to court, it won't be business as usual for those attending court, said Deputy District Court Administrator Sarah Lindahl-Pfieffer.
"If possible, we tried to move some folks to a calendar after the X Games finish," she said. "We've been planning for over a year, and the X Games are just a fraction of the inconvenience people will face during the Super Bowl."
Minneapolis is in an unusual situation because there are five courthouses fewer than 8 blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium. Lindahl-Pfieffer talked to court administrators in cities that have hosted recent Super Bowls, and the courthouses weren't near the stadiums.
Beyond the crush of people attending private ticketed and public events in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, heightened security will add an additional barrier to getting to court. Several streets will be shut down to nonemergency traffic, light rail will be disrupted near the stadium and many parking lots and ramps won't be available for staff, court users and customers, said Lindahl-Pfieffer.
Other concerns include possible protests, a drop in law enforcement availability for court duties and an increase in arrests. To try to avoid hearing delays, there will be a significant reduction in nonemergency court hearings. Trials may be moved to suburban courthouses and an emergency operations plan for the courts will be in place.
Plans haven't been finalized for court coverage during the Super Bowl. Texts and e-mails will be sent daily to court employees with the latest information about events and issues. Court users will receive notices if their hearing happens during the days surrounding the Super Bowl.
"People are enjoying summer," Lindahl-Pfieffer said. "They aren't thinking about the Super Bowl in February."