Years in the making and now just a few weeks away, Super Bowl LII (“A Minnesotan’s Guide to the Super Bowl,”) feels as if it is both right around the corner and still a long way off. The media’s updates on tight security and complex logistics make it feel imminent. And yet I’m surprised by how many of the auxiliary event details remain TBD—making promises of “world-class” entertainment with no specific names attached. (I can’t imagine the organizers’ stress level; I’m already feeling anxious about not having our March issue fully planned, and I don’t have to get it past Homeland Security.)
Those of us who live in the Twin Cities but won’t attend the game—that is to say, almost all of us—have been spending a lot of time anticipating it. Not the actual game, but all the hullabaloo. The Super Bowl Host Committee expects 100,000 people will flock downtown on game day, plus another 1 million visitors coming to town in the 10 days before the event. As downtown takes on Shanghai-like density, we locals must decide if we want to a) join the party or b) get the hell out of Dodge.
Twin Citians leaving for vacation on game day will have to take one of Metro Transit’s supplementary buses to the airport, as light rail service has been reserved for Super Bowl ticket holders. Still, that’s less of an inconvenience than literally being displaced from your home, as has been proposed for some homeless shelter residents, who will be moved to a location outside the stadium’s multi-block security perimeter.
Last time Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl, in 1992—back when Zubaz and mullets were in fashion—we pulled out all the stops to compensate for our cold-weather clime and give the nation’s football lovers a favorable view of our beautiful, livable community. Jugglers and magicians replaced skyway panhandlers; members of the national press were taken ice fishing; corporate mascots roamed the streets. The economic boost to the region, driven largely by visitor spending on hotels, transportation, entertainment, and food, was estimated to be $120 million. This time around, Meet Minneapolis anticipates a cash influx of closer to $300 million.
Back then and now, it’s the Big Game ticket holders we’re most hoping to impress, some 65 percent of which, the NFL estimates, are corporate decision makers. The chance to woo such an elite audience has an impact that’s potentially huge—a big company choosing to do more business in Minnesota could bring an enormous financial windfall—but is impossible to quantify.
And that opportunity isn’t without its risks. When I first heard the Super Bowl was coming to town, the worst I imagined was a blizzard. Now that seems a quaint worry for an event classified with the highest public safety risk, with plans to post snipers on downtown roofs and flank the streets with assault rifle–bearing officers in full commando gear.
We already have a lot of (pig)skin in the game: Taxpayers spent nearly half a billion on the new U.S. Bank Stadium and have given the NFL a list of perks some 153 pages long (to the tune of 35,000 free parking spaces, hotel suites, and police escorts, plus millions in sales tax rebates). How it all plays out remains to be seen. Though it won’t be from one of the stadium’s premium club couches, I’ll be on the edge of my seat.
PORTRAIT BY ERIKA LUDWIG. HAIR AND MAKEUP BY MARGO GORDON