Crews on Saturday began assembling one of the major attractions leading up to the Super Bowl: a 200-foot bridge spanning 9th Street along Nicollet Mall.
The bridge is usually a feature at the American Birkebeiner, the largest cross-country ski race in the country, held in Hayward, Wis. The Super Bowl Host Committee worked with the race’s foundation to bring the bridge downtown as a way to incorporate winter sports and recreation, according to Ben Popp, the Birkebeiner foundation’s executive director.
“We really want to showcase what happens in Minnesota in the winter,” Popp said as workers assembled the bridge in single-digit cold. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a small nonprofit in Wisconsin.”
The bridge will stretch from 8th to 10th streets along Nicollet Mall, more than 14 feet tall and 24 feet wide above the 9th Street intersection. The structure weighs about 50,000 pounds.
Once the bridge is built, trucks will dump a foot of snow on it. The Loppet Foundation, a Minneapolis nonprofit that promotes outdoor activities for underserved youth, will coordinate a slew of activities across the bridge.
They will include free opportunities to try skiing, fat-tire biking and skijoring, a sport in which a person on skis is pulled by dogs. A machine will groom the snow each night.
“Anything that you can do in the winter in Minnesota on snow, we’re gonna try and do it over the bridge,” Popp said.
The bridge will be up by Sunday night, he said.
Known as the “International Bridge,” it has been used twice in the Birkebeiner race by skiers to cross Hwy. 63 in Hayward as they approach the finish line.
Vehicle traffic will run below the bridge on 9th Street. The bridge, which usually carries about 13,000 skiers, is “completely safe” to cross, Popp said.
Andrea Mokros, vice president of communications for the host committee, said NBC is expected to set up a studio in front of the bridge as a backdrop. The stage for the free “Super Bowl Live” concerts will be steps away on 8th Street.
For Mokros, the construction of the bridge is a welcome sight after years of planning.
“It’s just great to finally see something happening that makes it all very real,” she said.
The bridge will be up until Super Bowl Sunday, which is Feb. 4. Crews will then tear it down and build it back up weeks later in Hayward for the Birkebeiner events, scheduled this year for Feb. 22-25.
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753