The calls first came three years ago, even before Minneapolis was confirmed as the host city for Super Bowl LII. Many of Minneapolis’ best-known music and performance venues were being asked to black out their calendars the week of the game, to save room for private parties for the NFL and its many partners.
Two weeks before the game, however, a lot of these renowned spaces are still waiting to fill in their open dates, including First Avenue, the Guthrie Theater and the Dakota Jazz Club.
The windfall that many Minneapolis hospitality and entertainment businesses expected off SBLII hasn’t exactly blown away these renowned venues yet. However, their operators are still holding out hope for some last-minute parties, and they plan to attract plenty of patrons one way or another that week.
“We were kind of counting on private parties being our big thing, but this was our first time working with the Super Bowl so we really didn’t know,” said Dakota co-owner Lowell Pickett.
At press time, the Dakota had only one private party, a brunch event, on its docket for all of Super Bowl week. After the Super Bowl host committee’s request to hold dates passed in October, Pickett and his team started looking to host concerts from their own dedicated roster of world-renowned performers.
There was a big problem with booking out-of-town talent, though: Hotel rooms were entirely booked.
“There’s nowhere in town for an out-of-town band to stay,” noted First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz, whose venue has been in a similar holding pattern waiting on private events.
Despite being one of the country’s most renowned rock clubs, First Ave only wound up with two nighttime parties, one featuring a fairly big-name country act that’s tightly under wraps.
First Ave and the Dakota didn’t have to worry too much about finding talent, though, thanks to the Twin Cities’ own deeply stacked music scene. The jazz supper club has booked locally rooted, Prince-affiliated acts fDeluxe (aka the Family, Jan. 31) and the New Power Generation (Feb. 2 and 3).
Pending more private bookings, Kranz said his crew have similarly solid backup plans for last-minute shows with locally rooted artists at First Avenue as well as its sister venues in St. Paul, the Turf Club and Palace Theatre, each also with open dates.
Even the Guthrie Theater — with its dazzling architecture and many multiuse spaces within Case Keenum-throwing distance of U.S. Bank Stadium — is relatively light on private party bookings.
“Our expectations were we would fill up quickly, and that didn’t happen,” said the Guthrie’s managing director, Jennifer Bielstein.
Still, the Guthrie has almost 10 private events lined up among its eight different available spaces, ranging from its ground-floor lobby on up to the ninth-floor Dowling Studio. And that’s better than nothing, which is what the theater may have faced otherwise.
The theater’s staff consulted colleagues in prior Super Bowl host cities and determined “the people who come to town for this really don’t make time for the performing arts when they’re here,” Bielstein said. And meanwhile, she added, “Most of our local patrons don’t want to come into the crowds downtown.”
First Ave’s staff also sees Super Bowl week as a big gain, since January-February is usually a slow time for the club, when touring bands generally aren’t eager to come to Minnesota.
“For this time of the year, I think we’re going to do great,” Kranz said.
Both First Ave and the Guthrie will also host daily tours for out-of-town visitors. “It’ll be good for exposure, too,” Bielstein said.
More than 200 venues
The fact that the Dakota, First Avenue and the Guthrie — arguably the three most prominent and culturally significant performance spaces in Minneapolis — did not get swooped up early and entirely by out-of-town party planners might suggest a disconnect if not outright disdain for Minnesota’s music and arts community.
However, the Super Bowl host committee’s manager of hospitality, Reece Anderson, said those venues were definitely on people’s radar. The problem was simply finding the right-sized room with the right amenities on the right night for the right budget.
“There are so many factors that play into it,” said Anderson, whose committee signed up all the venues for the NFL going back to before a Minneapolis Super Bowl was a sure thing, as is common in all host cities.
Anderson said they lined up more than 200 possible venues for parties and private events to hand off to the NFL and its many sponsors and affiliates: “We had more than needed,” Anderson said. “It was nice to see how many businesses were excited for the opportunity.”
Minneapolis’ other high-profile theaters will see a nice boost in revenue that week without having to step into the fray of private parties: They are all being rented for TV productions.
The Northrop will host the NFL Honors ceremony. The Orpheum is tied up for Jimmy Fallon’s post-Super Bowl “Tonight Show” broadcast. And the State will be used for the Golf Channel’s “Feherty Live!” series.
“Having one client at each theater all week helps make the inevitable craziness of being downtown manageable for all of us,” said Rick Hansen, director of booking for the Orpheum and State.
As for other full-time music venues in town, surprisingly few are hosting anything unique for Super Bowl week. That doesn’t mean their operators are uninviting Super Bowl visitors, but rather quite the contrary.
“We are attempting to create our own hoopla and plan to celebrate many of the local artists being displaced from downtown and other performance locations,” said Chris Mozena, executive director at the nonprofit Hook & Ladder Theater in south Minneapolis, hosting bands like Tina & the B-Sides and Alan Sparhawk’s Black-Eyed Snakes that week.
Despite his venue’s lack of well-paying private events, the Dakota’s co-owner also sounded upbeat about Super Bowl week because of the chance to do one of the things the club does best.
“We love showing off Minnesota talent here,” Pickett said. “What a great opportunity to do that.”