Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee gave a warm welcome Monday at the Mall of America media center in both words and deeds.
Zygi Wilf got to the point for Vikings fans still desperate to win a championship in their lifetimes: “One day soon we will get to the Lombardi [Trophy].”
Beyond that nod to the team, the session with dozens of reporters already in town focused on Minnesota warmth and activities for the more than 5,000 media members expected to roll in for the week from all over the world. Most of the media at the event were local, although there were a few national outlets and a BBC reporter already on site.
An hour after the news conference, the cavernous media center came alive with arriving reporters, some speaking Spanish and others with East Coast accents. The work space is on the second floor of the mall’s north side with floor-to-ceiling windows facing Ikea.
“We promise you a week you won’t forget and it won’t just be the weather,” Ecolab’s Doug Baker said at the event. He and fellow Host Committee chairs Richard Davis and Marilyn Carlson Nelson stood on the stage wearing matching purple jackets lined with the Super Bowl LII logo.
“We’ve built an incredible economy,” Baker said, noting that the Twin Cities metro area has the lowest unemployment rate in the country and yet had 30,000 applicants for 10,000 Super Bowl volunteers.
Minnesota has a dynamic, educated population that is vibrant and resilient, he said.
Keeping with the color scheme, Dayton, the Wilfs and Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley wore purple ties. “We’re all wearing purple ties this week in defiance,” the governor said, apparently alluding to the team’s drubbing by the Philadelphia Eagles in the conference Championship Game.
Mark Wilf credited Dayton singularly for his leadership in getting the new stadium built and bringing the Super Bowl. He welcomed media and called the quality of life in Minnesota “second to none.”
Organizers, aware that a well-fed media are a happy media, laid out the first of many meals: Caribou Coffee’s Bold North blend, French yogurt, strawberries and doughnuts from St. Paul’s Mojo Monkey. Shortly thereafter, lunch of Buffalo Wild Wings was served. Beer was to be put out at 3 p.m. Media members will spend much of their days at the center.
By 1 p.m., the security-controlled media center was hopping with arrivals. The black Labrador security dog wearing a “Do Not Pet” halter sniffed at camera after camera carried through the entry door. The security magnetometer beeped constantly as reporters filed in, set up their equipment and hunched over their computers.
The space will be busy all day, every day until Saturday, when the focus turns downtown to pregame festivities and the game itself on Sunday.
Host Committee CEO Maureen Bausch, who ran the Mall of America for its first 25 years until taking the Super Bowl position, encouraged shopping.
“If you can’t find something in this building,” she said, “they don’t make it.”