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Here’s Minnesota’s game plan to land the Super Bowl — but is it worth it?

Minnesota Vikings
The new stadium isn’t built yet, but the plan is to have it finished by 2016 and Super Bowl-ready two years later.

There are a few key ingredients to winning a Super Bowl in your home state. First get a handful of prominent business leaders in the mix, followed by the ringing endorsement of local and statewide politicians. Then bring up the fancy restaurants, convention centers and hotel rooms and raise a few million dollars. Last but not least, throw in a new football stadium.  

That’s the blueprint Gov. Mark Dayton and an all-new Super Bowl committee are working from as they aim to bring the 2018 game to the Vikings stadium in Minneapolis. The new stadium isn’t built yet, but the plan is to have it finished by 2016 and Super Bowl-ready two years later. By that time, it will have been more than 25 years since the football spectacle was held in Minnesota.

Dayton announced the effort this week, naming U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis, Ecolab CEO Doug Baker and longtime businesswoman Marilyn Carlson Nelson to lead the campaign and fundraising effort. Members of the committee will be in New York over the weekend for this year’s Super Bowl to pitch Minnesota to the National Football League (NFL).

There’s much to be done if Minnesota is to beat out Indianapolis and New Orleans, the other two finalists for the 2018 game. Indianapolis hosted its first Super Bowl in 2012 and is hoping to win the competition back. New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl a whopping 10 times and wants to nab the 2018 competition to coincide with its 300th anniversary. And already, Dayton is weathering political attacks for the Super Bowl push and criticism from economists on how much money the big game could actually bring into the state.

But with a growing economy and shiny new stadium to tout — the crux of the state’s bid — politicians and business leaders say they feel very confident about their chances.    

“It’s our time, it’s our moment, and we’re ready,” Davis proclaimed Monday as they rolled out the campaign. “In Hollywood they say, ‘I’m ready for my close-up,’ or ‘Put me in coach.’ We are ready for our close-up.”

Prepping the bid

Organizers are racing an early April deadline to submit Minnesota’s pitch to the NFL, and there’s a lot that goes into the process.  

Enter Melvin Tennant, the president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis. He has been working on the project since 2012, when the Legislature passed the public-private funding proposal to finance the new stadium.

Tennant traveled to the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans and he will be in New York this weekend to scope out the event. He hopes to draw on their examples to help inform Minnesota’s bid, particularly how New Orleans’ urban Mercedes-Benz Stadium handled travel and event hosting logistics. Like Minneapolis, the New Orleans stadium is within short traveling distance from the city’s convention center, making it easy for the NFL to host many of its sponsored events that go along with the Super Bowl. Tennant will have to pitch a similar set up in Minneapolis.

Melvin Tennant, president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis
MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Melvin Tennant: “We embrace the weather and we enjoy it and life goes on very, very vibrantly here.”

In New York over the weekend, Tennant wants to see the so-called Super Bowl Boulevard, which will take over Times Square. Tennant said the spine of downtown Minneapolis’ hospitality industry — streets like Nicollet Mall and Hennepin Avenue — could be transformed into something similar.  

He also wants to see how a fellow cold-weather city handles the climate. While the new Vikings stadium will be indoors and connected to downtown by a series of skyways, the state’s hospitality industry has always battled with its wintry perceptions across the nation. It doesn’t help, Tennant added, that this year’s dangerously cold temperatures put Minnesota cities on several “coldest places on Earth” lists.

“So many cities seems to get a free pass on the weather,” he said. “We will just have to show them that we embrace the weather and we enjoy it and life goes on very, very vibrantly here.”

The committee has also received a 190-page document from the NFL that asks for specifications on everything from number of restaurants to transportation options. He plans to tout the opening of the new light-rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul. Tennant said they have already filled at least one requirement: 19,000 hotel rooms in the metro have been secured for the four-night period surrounding the Feb. 4 game.

He’s also hoping to bring NFL alumni and some Minnesota celebrities on board to help make the case for the state. “This is really helping us make sure the world knows that we have the credentials to pursue major events,” Tennant said.

Big fundraising task

Minnesota will also have to demonstrate it has a generous business and philanthropic community that’s ready to foot part of the bill in order to bring the state on to the national stage. Indianapolis raised about $25 million for its 2012 Super Bowl bid, while the host committee in Texas raised $40 million for the 2011 game.

Davis isn’t too worried, pointing out that Minnesota is home to 19 Fortune 500 companies. “Based on the history we have in this community of philanthropic and sponsorship support, we expect we will have very high standards and probably a very high number,” he said.

In Arizona, where the Super Bowl will be hosted in 2015, the host committee expects to raise around $30 million for the effort. But city and sports executives are also lobbying the state to help offset costs for public safety during the game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.  

States like Texas allow state sales-tax revenue to offset the costs of hosting major sporting events. The provision allows incremental revenue, generated above annual sales-tax estimates, to be placed in a trust fund managed by the state. The money is then divvied up among local host committees.

For his part, Dayton doesn’t think any state dollars should go toward the project. “I don’t intend to bring anything related to the Vikings or the football stadium to the Legislature for the next one or five years, depending on how long I’m here,” Dayton said.

Bad economics?

Another key ingredient for any state Super Bowl bid, economists say, is over-inflated economic impact numbers.

Dayton and business leaders touted a potential $500 million economic boost for the region as a result of the Super Bowl. That number is based off a recent Rockport Analytics report on the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, which the group estimated brought the metro area total gross expenditures of $384 million, resulting in a direct economic impact from the Super Bowl of $176 million.

But just about every economist everywhere disputes such assertions. The report used by Dayton and other politicians to pitch Super Bowls are almost always commissioned by the NFL host committees, and the real economic benefit of hosting even such a massive sporting is much less.

College of the Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson’s research shows an average impact of between $30 million to $120 million for a city, which is a whole lot less than $500 million.

University of South Florida economics professor Philip Porter says there’s no benefit to the host city at all. “All the empirical evidence points to that week being business as usual. It’s flat,” said Porter, who has evaluated sales-tax data from counties where Super Bowls have been held.  

That’s because many Super Bowl-related activities don’t generate money for the community, Porter said. Those dollars go into hotel chains that are nationally or internationally owned, or to the NFL, which draws huge crowds for its own sponsored events. The spectacle also keeps the average weekend crowds away that would have gone to local performance halls or museums.

“What you are doing is you are the hens and you open up the hen house to the fox,” Porter said. “The NFL comes in and opens up their super store and all they are doing is selling their NFL memorabilia. What you have done is invited a national chain to come into your community and compete with you.”  

Super Bowl politics

Dayton is following the example of his old boss and political mentor, former Gov. Rudy Perpich. Dayton worked in his office the year Perpich spearheaded the effort to bring the 1992 Super Bowl to Minnesota.  

Now in the governor’s office himself, Dayton is feeling the political heat of taking any high-profile action in a competitive election year. Immediately after announcing the Super Bowl effort, GOP gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert attacked the governor for using state dollars for a planned trip to meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over the weekend.

“A multimillionaire like Mark Dayton expecting average Minnesotans to foot the bill for his taxpayer-financed Super Bowl vacation is an insult,” Seifert said.

Assistant House Minority Leader Paul Torkelson said Dayton was getting “sidetracked” and should be staying in the state over the weekend to deal with the emergency propane shortage.

Dayton ultimately canceled the trip to hold an executive council meeting and several high-profile calls related to the shortage, as well as speak at the funeral for civil rights activist Matt Little.

But St. Olaf College political science professor Dan Hofrenning thinks it’s going to be tough for Republicans to sling Super Bowl-themed attacks Dayton’s way for very long.

“It’s hard imagine how it could hurt Governor Dayton to get a high-profile event that puts Minnesota in the spotlight,” Hofrenning said. “Generally people look to governors to promote the state, and that’s what Dayton is doing, he’s promoting the state.”

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Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 01/30/2014 - 09:35 am.

    Why not?

    It seems like there’s lots of grumpiness over this plan by people who opposed the stadium in the first place. I sympathize with that opinion, but now that the thing is under construction why would not you *not* want to have this big event there? Even of the economic impact is less than advertised, nobody is predicting a loss. I don’t see why anyone would oppose this other than leftover anti-stadium rage.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/30/2014 - 11:13 am.

      Call me Grumpy

      I am opposed to the stadium for numerous reasons. I can’t say that I am opposed to another Super Bowl being played here, I just don’t see why anyone would spend money–tax money or private money–on attracting it here. The economic benefit would be, at best, negligible. It’s nothing more than an effort to create an after-the-fact justification for erecting Zygidu in the first place.

      If the business community wants to toss their money done a highly speculative hole, that’s their affair. Just don’t ask me for any help because of the economic boon this will be.

    • Submitted by Bill O'Reilly on 01/30/2014 - 11:52 am.

      After all the bills are paid these events aren’t worth the hassle for the communities that put them on. We certainly are upset with the stadium deal, but stating that “it’s getting built, so why not” is just stupid, squared.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 01/30/2014 - 12:51 pm.

      There’s nothing “over” about paying for the stadium finance…

      …schemes – THAT burden on the public is just BEGINNING. This is not a matter of leftover bitterness – the leftover financial consequences will be with us for decades to come.

      The Super Bowl will consume yet more public resources.

    • Submitted by Bill O'Reilly on 01/30/2014 - 01:17 pm.

      The Steve Sack cartoon in the Strip this morning says it perfectly:

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/30/2014 - 09:36 am.

    Is it worth it?

    Why don’t we ask the folks in Jersey City, where this year’s game is actually being played? I’m not sure they see it as a prudent investment.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/30/2014 - 09:56 am.

    The cost just to bid

    I heard the other day that it costs $25-40 million just to BID for the Super Bowl. If Dayton claims no taxpayer money will be involved, where does he think that kind of money will come from? Private investors will want some assurance that their money will have some return but there is no assurance.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/30/2014 - 10:40 am.


    This kind of thing misses the point. Minnesotans don’t want the Super Bowl, they wan the Vikings to be in the Super Bowl. And if you think about it, in all likelihood it makes more sense to invest in the Vikings, than in any given game. A top flight franchise, which the Vikings aren’t right now, gets multiple games on national TV. They are featured on the national late afternoon national games on Fox and CBS, and on the night games on ESPN and NBC. While no single one of these games generates the exposure a Super Bowl gets, cumulatively the effect is comparable. In addition, a top performing NFL team gets two playoff games, both high exposure,, while again not comparable to the Super Bowly, if the team can stay in the top tier over a period of years can cumulatively generate far more revenue that the Super Bowl, which is never more than a one time event. And let’s look at the real world of what actually happens. Who is getting exposure from this year’s Super Bowl? Who are people talking about in the media? Are they talking about Denver? Seattle? Or the building that happens to be chosen as a venue for this year’s game.

    I have a modest proposal. Instead of running around raising millions of dollars to pay for what essentially will amount to little more than a good weekend for the hotels in a slow season, let’s put the same money, or indeed far less money in attracting a quality quarterback, who in the long run will be a far better investment for our community. And let’s recall that people of Minnesota who invested in this franchise to the tune of 500 million dollars, are far more interested in having a team getting to and winning the Super Bowl than they are in subsidizing a big night for the local bars.

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 01/30/2014 - 12:10 pm.

      But, Hiram

      The public has to pay to bring the SB to town and the Vikings need to pay to bring in a quality QB. (I assume the Vikings would get a large share of SB ticket revenue, to boot.)

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/30/2014 - 01:34 pm.


        I do understand the realities of that kind of thinking, that categories have been imposed, and that it impossible to move between them. I have just raised the issue that it might make far more sense for our investment in Vikings football to pay for a good quarterback which is an investment for the long term, than it does in a Super Bowl which means little more than a good weekend’s business for local bar owners four years from now. Growing up, my parents used to take me to the Mayflower donut shop in Minneapolis. It had a sign on the wall on the wall with poem, advising patrons to keep their eye upon the donut, not upon the hole. I believe the people who are so wrapped up in bringing one game here years from now, are so intently focused on the hole that they have lost track of the donut altogether.They don’t understand what NFL football means or why the taxpayers of Minnesota have spent 500 million dollars to keep it here.

  5. Submitted by David Frenkel on 01/30/2014 - 11:19 am.

    cold weather

    NJ doesn’t have cold weather, MN has cold weather (and snow). I think after this Super Bowl the NFL will have second thoughts about another cold weather Super Bowl even if the game itself is played indoors. The process of bidding on a Super Bowl is a huge expense and the time and effort could be spend elsewhere.

  6. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 01/30/2014 - 11:30 am.

    Super Bowl: loads and loads of ordure

    For a thorough, independent analysis which debunks the myths of economic benefits of a Super Bowl, based on study of 30 Super Bowls, read that reference the author linked:

    Read the whole thing, but here are a couple of salient references that report makes to other studies:

    Baade and Matheson’s (1999) examination of twenty-five Super Bowls from 1973 to 1997 found the game associated with an increase in host metropolitan area employment of 537 jobs. 537 !!

    Coates and Humphrey’s (2002) cursory look at all post-season play in American professional sports found that hosting the Super Bowl had no statistically significant effect on per capita income in the host city. None !!

    The NFL has offered the Super Bowl as an inducement to convince otherwise reluctant cities that the construction of a new stadium makes economic sense. The weak, slippery minds in the Governor’s office, MN Legislature, and Mpls City Council are easily made to slide down the slippery slope of this greasy logic, so whether there is any truth to these claims becomes quite irrelevant in decision-makers !!

    Here’s an argument for the Super Bowl these empty-headers might buy, and the NFL should try it out: “You are now SO SCREWED with hundreds of millions in public money going to the Wilfs and the NFL, this Super Bowl business is one of your few chances to get ANY RETURN on your money at all. Maybe this might ease the pain.”

    This current Super Bowl hype by mindless rah-rah boosterism is designed specifically to cover up who the real beneficiaries of this paganism will be: the NFL, the Wilfs, downtown businesses.

    Because so much of the hospitality industry revenue bump will go to national chains, it is also to cover up the fact that much of the real revenue impact won’t stay in MN at all – it will go out of state.

  7. Submitted by James Hamilton on 01/30/2014 - 12:12 pm.

    Three cities

    walked into the restroom . . .

  8. Submitted by craig furguson on 01/30/2014 - 02:06 pm.

    Is it worth it?

    I just depends on if you are paying for it or if you are benefiting from it. Often they are not the same parties.

  9. Submitted by Tom Kelly on 01/30/2014 - 11:55 pm.

    I have to wonder, at what point will Minnesota Democrats stop kissing up to the monied elite and get something done for the vast majority they court at every election. They had no trouble violating a pledge to taxpayers and cobbling together a plan to cover their bogus stadium financing, but let die in conference committee a pathetic 25 cent minimum wage increase. Personally, I’m done with y’all.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 02/04/2014 - 10:28 am.

      I have to wonder, at what point will Minnesota Democrats stop kissing up to the monied elite and get something done for the vast majority they court at every election.

      To me fair, the DFL supports these projects because they put construction workers to work. And as a good DFLer, that’s certainly something I support.

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/31/2014 - 10:07 am.


    I have to say, I was pleased that Governor Dayton had the sense to cancel his Super Bowl junket. Politically, that gives me hope for the future.

  11. Submitted by Sarah Nagle on 01/31/2014 - 11:26 am.


    Is the Richard Davis who said, above:

    Davis isn’t too worried, pointing out that Minnesota is home to 19 Fortune 500 companies. “Based on the history we have in this community of philanthropic and sponsorship support, we expect we will have very high standards and probably a very high number,” he said.

    the same Richard Davis who said that the donor base was tapped out and that the MN Orchestra was too expensive???

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 02/01/2014 - 11:14 am.

      Yes, this Mr. Davis is a slippery one indeed !!

      In the spirit of “everything according to the circumstances”, he oozes from one argument to its opposite, always in pursuit of the money, a highly practiced skill – the sure sign of a successful banker.

  12. Submitted by Carol Becker on 02/02/2014 - 07:36 am.

    No more money

    One of the important things to know is that the State doesn’t make more money by hosting the Superbowl. I was the sales tax manager in Minneapolis the last time the Superbowl was here and there was no blip from the Superbowl. Because the people who would have normally come here don’t come here. There is no economic boom from this. It might be nice publicity but it doesn’t bring in more cash.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 02/04/2014 - 09:41 am.

      Off topic

      I always wondered what the effect of cancelling aportion of the NHL hockey season . How did it affect sales tax revenue? In St. Paul? More generally? Do you know if it affected income tax revenue?

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/05/2014 - 01:06 pm.

        If I Recall Correctly

        During the 1994-95 lockout, Ramsey County sales tax receipts were stable. The businesses around the Xcel suffered, but overall, it looked like people were just spending the same money elsewhere.

        I don’t know about the more recent lockout.

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