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

Politicians and business leaders are confident we’ll get the game in 2018, but economists say there’s little benefit.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”