‘Looking good' to host future Super Bowl

The Vikings are preparing a bid to host a Super Bowl between 2018 and 2020, and the team's stadium point man spent time in New Orleans getting background on what's needed for the bid. The stadium plan also has protection against those fearing a northern city hosting a Super Bowl.

Before most Minnesotans even know there are ducks, those behind the scenes are putting their ducks in a row to have Minnesota host a Super Bowl by the end of this decade, and the state's investment in a new Vikings stadium could bear fruit in the span of one week if the Super Bowl comes to Minnesota.

Lester Bagley, the team's vice president of public affairs and stadium development, may still secretly have his fingers crossed, but if he was to shake his proverbial Magic 8-Ball, it would say, "All Signs Point To Yes."

"I think we're in good shape," Bagley said. "The NFL wants to reward those cities and states that have stepped up and got stadium issues resolved. That's why Indianapolis got the Super Bowl last year. We're going to have a first-class stadium here and we're looking forward to showing off Minnesota and what we have here. I wouldn't say it's time to stick our flag in the ground yet, but things are looking good."

Construction on the new stadium, located on the Metrodome footprint, is expected to begin in October. Most of the locals thought the stadium deal struck with the Minnesota State Legislature was over and done. In theory, that's the perception. In reality, it's only the beginning. Bagley spent three days in New Orleans last weekend, primarily touring the type of facilities that are ancillary to the Super Bowl itself – the numerous venues throughout the city that are the component parts of the week-long Super Bowl circus.

Not lost in his time in The Big Easy was a story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper that said the economic impact to the city and the state was in excess of $350 million, not including the game-day revenue generated by those who actually had tickets to the game.

For the first time last weekend, Bagley was rubbing elbows with the NFL elite armed with a stadium deal in his hip pocket. In previous meetings of a similar nature, he was the guy in the middle of making sure that Minnesota didn't send another professional sports franchise to Los Angeles. Things couldn't have been more dissimilar.

The playing field this time around was much different and, for the first time in 20 years, Minnesota is again a viable Super Bowl host candidate – not in rhetorical terms, but in realistic possibility.

"I got very positive feedback from every member of the NFL leadership that I spoke with," Bagley said. "I talked to a lot of people on the business side and the advance site side of the NFL about bringing a Super Bowl to Minneapolis and the impression that I got was that Minnesota is very much in the running."

One new wrinkle in the Super Bowl bidding proposal process is that potential Super Bowl venues are being asked to submit bid packages on a three-year basis. While Bagley's group is shooting for the 2018 Super Bowl, he said that bids were submitted for 2019 and 2020 as well. 2018 remains the goal, but the three-year window all but assures that Minnesota will be in the running to lock down a reservation at the Super Bowl table. The priority now is to sell the Twin Cities as an ideal site for the world media and well-heeled bucket listers to descend upon and bring home the kind of cash flow so intense that New Orleans paused Mardi Gras for a week in deference to the NFL.

To that end, the Bagley said that the good vibe coming from the powers that be in the NFL have a flurry of activity going on locally during NFL "down time."

"We're in the process of putting together a host committee for the Super Bowl bid process, which is being headed up by Melvin Tennant, who is the CEO of Meet Minneapolis. That is part of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau," Bagley said. "They will be putting together a bid package by a CEO-level leadership group. We expect that the process of putting all of that together will be done in the spring or summer of this year."

Those in the Twin Cities arts community may be pleased to find out that a Super Bowl event may be coming to an upscale theater near you. Given its fledgling success, part of the future Super Bowl site bidding package will be to incorporate the NFL Honors Awards ceremony as part of the process.

From a roll of the dice a year ago by the NFL to get into the "awards season" to a two-time triumph, the league is looking to make the annual awards ceremony a staple of Super Bowl weekend. Fortunately, regardless of how big the NFL Honors ceremony grows, the Twin Cities have multiple venues to accommodate how big or how intimate the awards show prefers to be.

"The NFL has been extremely pleased with how the NFL Honors show has been received," Bagley said. "The plan is to elevate the event and make it a prominent part of Super Bowl weekend, whether it remains on the Saturday before the game or is moved to Friday night. I attended the program and was very impressed with how it all came off. Many of the stars of the NFL – both current and from the game's past – were on hand and it was something special. The league is looking to promote that portion of the Super Bowl festivities and Minneapolis and St. Paul have no shortage of theatres that could play host to that event."

One of the NFL's concerns about northern Super Bowls is the weather. Last Sunday, the game-time temperature at Met Life Stadium (the site of next year's Super Bowl) was 35 degrees with gusting winds. This weekend, a newly-named winter storm has its sights set on next year's Super Bowl site. The NFL is understandably wary about its foray into its championship literally being played on a frozen tundra.

The concerns that were already in the air were compounded by the power outage at the Superdome Sunday. It hammered home the concern about outside factors coming into play with the NFL's marquee event. Fortunately, those looking to reduce the risk of exposure that might put Minnesota in a bad light are already working to douse that potential fire before it reaches the ember stage.

What if there's a blizzard in Minnesota when the Super Bowl comes? No problem. The Minnesota Super Bowl plan is to connect the stadium to the Minneapolis skyway system, which allows people to traverse downtown Minneapolis.

"That will be a selling point in our favor having the skyway system hooked up to the new stadium," Bagley said. "For those who are in town for the game, many of them will be able to get from wherever they're coming from to the stadium without even having to put on a coat."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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