Even after spending most of her career running the massive Mall of America, Maureen Bausch was dazzled and daunted by the spectacle that was the 2015 Super Bowl.

It wasn’t the game itself that wowed her so much as the behind-the-scenes strategies and work that went into putting it together — targets of close study for Bausch as she prepares for Minnesota’s 2018 Super Bowl, of which she is CEO.

Bausch said this year’s game played in suburban Phoenix was “absolutely amazing,” even for an executive who has seen many of the world’s biggest attractions. “What the Super Bowl does is, it’s really like creating a Disney World” in the host city, she said.

She is barely two months into her job of creating the operation that will run all of the official events for the ’18 game at the new Minnesota Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis. She said she’s already had about 120 meetings, and was heading into another one Wednesday with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Bausch has hired her first staff member, Gail Suddath, an executive assistant to the board of the Greater Twin Cities United Way, and is preparing for a visit next month from NFL officials coming to town to check out various venues.

As part of her research, she “met with every city that has had or plans to have a Super Bowl,” she said. Most surprising has been the scope of Super Bowl events and the space needed to run them, she said.

For example, Bausch said, this year’s NFL Experience event was held in a facility three times the size of Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America. In the Twin Cities, the event will be held at the Convention Center in Minneapolis, but Bausch said that won’t be big enough — space will need to be added somehow.

“Kids are going to go nuts in there,” Bausch said of the NFL Experience, which features memorabilia and interactive games.

A place she returned to three times at this year’s game was “radio row,” 60,000 square feet of interview and broadcasting space where a spectator can stand next to a live interview and see stars. “It’s just fascinating to watch,” Bausch said. She spotted New York Jets great Joe Namath and actresses Mariska Hargitay and Olivia Munn.

Then there were the parties. By her estimate, there were 100 of them and another 50 concerts. Such gatherings gave businesses a chance to court customers. “Everyone entertained,” she said.

The media also were interested in reporting on local corporations. “It’s an opportunity for every company in Minnesota to showcase what they do,” she said.

Seeking sprawling spaces

For 2018, the planned venue for media day with the players is the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, but Bausch is rethinking that after Phoenix. On that day, the media interview players from the floor of the arena. The public can sit in the arena seats and watch. Based on what she saw in Arizona, Bausch said, “we might have to go to the stadium for this event.”

The 2018 media party will be held at Nickelodeon Universe. In Indianapolis in 2012, it was held at the Motor Speedway. “I think the mall would do a spectacular job. We could even maybe tell the media to bring their children,” Bausch said.

Bausch’s next steps will include fundraising and hiring an operations director by summer. That person will oversee event logistics, from vendor permits to transportation and organizing volunteers.


Twitter: @rochelleolson