Wednesday, May 21, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Now that Minneapolis has the 2018 Super Bowl, organizers are determined to show the world that nobody does winter better than Minnesota.
Touting the theme "Built for the Bold," organizers persuaded NFL team owners on Tuesday to choose Minneapolis, largely on the appeal of the futuristic $1 billion stadium rising from the site of the former Metrodome, which hosted the Super Bowl in 1992. But the civic leaders turned Minnesota's legendary winters into a selling point, too.
"We didn't shy away from it. We embraced it," Vikings president and owner Mark Wilf said.
Details are still taking shape, but plans call for turning downtown's Nicollet Mall pedestrian area into a nearly mile-long Super Bowl Boulevard to showcase outdoor activities. There will also be links with the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which is usually held in late January.
"It's a chance for us to demonstrate how we celebrate winter," said Melvin Tennant, president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis, the city's convention and visitors bureau. "It's a community that never slows down, that enjoys the outdoors four seasons. And we're in a position to share what we already know with the rest of the world."
Minnesota's winters are indeed bitter — and last winter was the coldest in 35 years. But that doesn't stop residents from delighting in skiing, skating, snowmobiling and hockey. The St. Paul Winter Carnival has embraced the season for more than a century, featuring ice and snow sculpting, community sledding and parades. An extreme ice skating course has been a big hit in the capital city for the past two winters.
In keeping with the winter theme, Minneapolis' video pitch included Lindsey Vonn, the World Cup skiing champion who grew up suburban Burnsville.
Rewarding Minnesota for building the stadium was a major reason the NFL broke with its tradition of opting for warmer settings. Only five Super Bowls have been played in cold-weather cities, including this year's in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Detroit has hosted it twice. Indianapolis hosted it in 2012, but lost its bid for a repeat in Tuesday's vote.
The Super Bowl is expected to draw 100,000 visitors to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, while over 100 million people across the U.S. watch it on TV from the warm comfort of their homes and sports bars. Civic boosters and business leaders see it as a huge opportunity to lure conventions, meetings and other business that goes elsewhere in the winter.
"Now that we're able to say we're hosting the Super Bowl, I think that will have many groups give us a second look," Tennant said. "And we're going to take full advantage of that with future sales efforts."
Minneapolis will surely take some cues from how Detroit and the New York area pulled it off.
The Motor City featured a 14-block festival called the Motown Winter Blast in 2006. The four-day party included dog sledding, ice sculptures, snowmobiling exhibitions, performances by Olympic figure skaters and a 200-foot long snow slide. A warmer-than-average January hampered some of the fun, though. Snow-making machines struggled with the slide and organizers had to put wheels on the dog sleds.
This year, organizers created a Super Bowl Boulevard that included Times Square, about 10 miles from the stadium in New Jersey. Partygoers could get their photo taken with the Vince Lombardi Trophy or zoom down a seven-story toboggan run, among other things. Some Broadway shows held a two-week, two-for-one ticket promotion.
"We plan to set the bar high for all northern destinations that host the Super Bowl," vowed Doug Baker, a Minneapolis bid committee co-chair and CEO of St. Paul-based Ecolab.
Associated Press writers Jon Krawczysnski, Brian Bakst and Mike Cronin contributed to this story.