Nearly three months before football fans file into the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII, a quieter pilgrimage began by freight and by rail.
Four hundred new Hyundai vehicles started arriving in November at Canterbury Park in Shakopee to prepare for the largest sporting event of the year — and the influx of high-rollers it attracts.
Hyundai, official auto sponsor of the NFL, rented the racetrack’s massive surface lot and indoor Expo Center to store the fleet. Most of the vehicles will end up scattered at hotels throughout the Twin Cities for traveling NFL executives, staffers and teams participating in the Feb. 4 championship game.
“We’re pretty much taking over the city. You’ll see nothing but Hyundais and Genesis cruising around,” said Aaron Zeuli, manager of experiential marketing and strategic alliance at Hyundai Motor America.
The Korean automaker looking to bolster its U.S. brand succeeded General Motors as the NFL’s auto sponsor in 2015. The four-year deal grants Hyundai the rights to use the NFL logo and brand in its advertisements and solidifies one of the lead marketing spots in football. Lately, the auto manufacturer used that prime spot to promote its luxury brand, Genesis.
Hyundai leased Canterbury Park’s lots for four months and set about erecting a massive, heated tent where it will wash the cars before moving them inside the Expo Center for final detail work.
A four-person crew from Irvine, Calif.-based Cosmetic Car Care will apply the NFL shield and Hyundai’s H logo to each ride, along with California license plates.
“We’ve done so many cars that we have it down to a science,” said Dan Winters, special event fleet manager for Cosmetic Car Care. Each vehicle requires about 20 minutes of labor before it’s set out to dry, he said.
Rather than wrangling 400 used vehicles from across the country, Hyundai ships models straight from the assembly lines in Korea, Georgia and Alabama with fewer than 100 miles on the odometers.
All but one model has all-wheel drive — a nod to Minnesota winters — and most will have heated seats and steering wheels. After the game the vehicles will be sold at auction.
Mary Pat Monson, Canterbury’s special events senior manager, said the racetrack’s centralized location just off U.S. 169 helped secure the Hyundai contract. “It’s not that far from the airport or downtown,” Monson said. “There isn’t anywhere in the city that can do something like this. They need the parking lot.”
It’s not the first time Canterbury’s 20,000 parking spaces have enticed event promoters. During the 2016 Ryder Cup in Chaska, the racetrack invited golf fans to park on the grounds and catch a shuttle to the tournament at Hazeltine National Golf Club.