It’s all getting real.
From the NFL officials in town to the street banners to the big rigs bearing “Birkie” Bridge parts, the signs of Super Bowl LII are spreading.
After three years of behind-the-scenes brainstorming, meetings, visits and trips by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, the energy shifts from Sunday’s last regular season game at U.S. Bank Stadium to rolling out the big show Feb. 4.
“It’s full-on execution; pencils down,” Host Committee Vice President Andrea Mokros said. “Credentials are being printed. Guest lists are being finalized.”
Anyone visiting downtown Minneapolis, downtown St. Paul or the Mall of America in Bloomington will notice the changes as the metro area gears up to host 1 million visitors bringing almost $340 million to the regional economy, according to an analysis done for the Host Committee.
Construction begins this week on Nicollet Mall for the infrastructure of Super Bowl Live, the 10-day free extravaganza of concerts, food, network broadcasts and zip lines that begins Jan. 26.
Street banners will go up throughout the Twin Cities this week. Then come more billboards and the festooning of skyways. The human infrastructure gets built up, too. About 10,000 colorful Super Bowl-themed boxes have been packed and stacked with gift gear, ready for distribution to volunteer team captains this week at Crew 52 headquarters in City Center.
First up in the transformation of Nicollet Mall to winter wonderland is the 198-foot American Birkebeiner “Birkie” International Bridge. The bridge, which will be placed at S. 9th Street and covered with a dozen dump trucks of snow, will be a signature piece of Super Bowl Live, the host committee’s main production.
The bridge will be hauled from its Hayward, Wis., home on what Birkie officials say will be a “well-orchestrated” convoy of 12 semitrailer trucks. Those rigs need space to park, so surface parking spots near the mall will get tougher to find this week.
Beyond the Birkie Bridge, there’s much to construct on the mall. The ground floor of the former Dayton’s/Macy’s department store will be remade into a warm respite. Corporate sponsors such as Land O’Lakes, Delta Air Lines, Hyundai, Schwan’s and Bridgestone will offer activities, food and a place to chill out.
Five television networks will set up broadcast platforms where their anchors will broadcast live. NBC, which will carry the game, will construct its stage near the bridge. ESPN has claimed the Crystal Court in the IDS Center. Also on the mall will be KARE, NBC’s local affiliate; CNN, and the NFL Network.
At the Minneapolis Convention Center on the mall’s south end, the NFL will begin building its interactive theme park, the NFL Experience, on Jan. 18.
The Mall of America’s already in the game with a display that went up Friday on the ground level of the north atrium featuring oversized football helmets representing each of the 32 teams. “We’ve already started the celebration, and we’ll continue to build it as we lead up to the game,” mall Vice President Dan Jasper said.
On the second level, above the helmets, visitors will find 48 pieces of graphic artist Mark Herman’s depictions of Minnesota icons and places. Stores, including the official NFL Shop, already sell Super Bowl LII and Bold North gear. As game day approaches, the mall’s open spaces will transform into interactive Super Bowl-related displays.
On Jan. 29, the mall’s third-floor food area will turn into Radio Row, also known as Fan Gallery. Fans can wander freely among broadcast booths and stumble across legends and stars milling around like Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Drew Brees and Doug Flutie were in recent years. “It’s an opportunity for us locals to have a little bit of that Hollywood element,” Jasper said.
Playoffs force a delay
One major prep move has been delayed. The NFL isn’t going to be able to take over U.S. Bank Stadium on Jan. 2 for five weeks of preparations and reconfigurations. Barring a string of unfortunate events, the Minnesota Vikings will need the building for a playoff game the weekend of Jan. 13-14. It’s also possible that the Vikings could play host to the conference championship game the following Sunday, Jan. 21.
Across the river in downtown St. Paul, the Red Bull Crashed Ice event Jan. 19-20 will be followed quickly by the construction of another slide inside CHS Field in Lowertown.
A chunk of the $340 million in revenue predicted by West Chester, Pa.-based Rockport Analytics comes through hotel bookings — and Airbnb. Planners reserved hotel rooms as soon as the state secured the game in 2014. Depending on who’s in the Super Bowl, some of those rooms could become available. For anyone not going to the game, Mokros said there are plenty of rooms the weekend before the game and early in the week leading up to the game. Things are full by Friday, Feb. 2.
Airbnb, the online home sharing site, reported a spike in bookings after a yearlong effort to recruit Twin Cities hosts. Beginning in February, so-called Project 612 announced the goal of doubling the number of Twin Cities host homes to 2,000 by game day. Last week, the site reported 2,650 Airbnb hosts in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
A survey of game-weekend availability on the site shows a range of options from the austere — sharing a studio apartment with its occupant — to the elegant — occupying a capacious penthouse condo with views of the city.
More than 100 other venues are booked for parties and events, including the Minneapolis Armory and Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, both of which will feature concerts by Club Nomadic. The traveling entertainment group already constructed a temporary 9,000-capacity pop-up venue in the parking lot at the Prior Lake casino and hotel, designed to get fans close to the stage. Among the acts scheduled are the Chainsmokers, Gwen Stefani and Florida Georgia Line.
Kelly Clarkson will perform hours before the game Feb. 4 for 8,000 game ticket holders at the Armory.
Ah yes, the game. U.S. Bank Stadium will seat about 65,000 on Feb. 4, down from the usual 66,200. The best time to buy a ticket is tough to determine because the Super Bowl often bucks the traditional pattern of ticket prices dropping as the game approaches.
Chris Leyden, an analyst at ticket reseller SeatGeek, said, “If you are a huge football fan and you want to see the Super Bowl and you’re comfortable where the prices are, then pull the trigger.”
The cheapest ticket Friday on SeatGeek was $3,400. On the other end, the NFL’s partner On Location Experience already sold out at Platinum Plus, the highest-level package. For $13,499, Platinum packages are still available. Those include admission to the Kelly Clarkson show and all-inclusive hospitality and a postgame party in the Delta Sky360 Club on field level.
One strong bet: Prices for tickets will climb if you-know-who makes it to the game.