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Super Bowl: Twin Cities’ bid on the line

Illustrations courtesy Minnesota Vikings Artist renditions of the exterior of the new Minnesota Vikings’ stadium, which is under construction in downtown Minneapolis.

Bud Grant failed to win a Super Bowl in four attempts as Vikings head coach during the 1970s. Running back Adrian Peterson has never qualified in seven superstar seasons with Minnesota.

Yet civic duty calls the icons to help deliver a defining victory for the franchise Tuesday when the Vikings and Minnesota Super Bowl LII committee woo league owners for the chance to play host to the NFL championship game in 2018.

The competition is formidable; New Orleans and Indianapolis already have been host to successful Super Bowls, and each has the major advantage of a venue that is actually built.

But Minnesota has advantages, as well.

Presenters Richard Davis, chief executive of U.S. Bancorp; Marilyn Carlson Nelson, former CEO of Carlson Cos.; and Vikings President Mark Wilf have 15 minutes of PowerPoint time to persuade 32 hardboiled NFL owners to return the Super Bowl to wintry Minneapolis on Feb. 4, 2018 — 26 years after Super Bowl XXVI was staged at the demolished Metrodome.

Videotaped speeches from Grant, Peterson and other local celebrities including Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and chef Andrew Zimmern will help bring Minnesota’s detailed bid to life this week in the ballroom of Atlanta’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

“We’re going to put a plan together that will blow their mind,” Davis said.

Dennis Hopper actually did back in 2008.

Easy pitchman

The late actor/director/iconoclast made the pitch that year for Indianapolis, a town Hopper adopted after earning an Academy Award nomination for playing alcoholic assistant coach “Shooter” in the 1986 high school basketball movie “Hoosiers.”

Hopper also nodded to his portrayal of a hippy renegade in “Easy Rider,” voicing Indy’s accolades over the film’s signature song, Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild.”

In the interactive video shown to a buttoned-down room of NFL and team officials, Hopper said the mushroom-shaped canopies over the proposed downtown block party “look like something I may have eaten in my younger days.”

Hopper’s sly self-awareness preceded another message by Indianapolis Schools Superintendent Eugene White — yin and yang performance art that helped the city secure Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.

Landing the 52nd Super Bowl and its weeklong festival of football and commerce would be a coup for Wilf and his brother, Zygi, the Vikings’ chairman. The Wilfs successfully lobbied the Legislature in 2012 for $498 million to help build a futuristic indoor stadium on the old Metrodome site.

The yet-to-be-named $976 million venue is the centerpiece of Minnesota’s bid. At the moment, it’s merely a gigantic hole in the middle of a construction site. The Wilfs’ fellow owners will have to rely on renderings and interactive computer programs to envision the event.

“It’s very competitive,” said Lester Bagley, the club’s vice president of public affairs/stadium development. “In terms of projecting our chance, we delivered a great bid. That was our goal — make it hard for NFL owners to choose someone other than Minnesota. We did that.”

New Orleans is the consensus favorite among sports marketers, having already hosted 10 Super Bowls — tied with Miami for most. The renowned party town will celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2018 and is counting on the NFL to kick off a yearlong celebration.

Moreover, New Orleans is the warm-weather destination that does not require outdoor fire pits and heat lamps to thaw its roving guests like Minneapolis and Indianapolis, whose compact and pedestrian-friendly downtown was widely praised by 2012 Super Bowl attendees.

“One major consideration, even though the game will be held indoors, would certainly be the weather and the what-ifs,” said Robert Tuchman, president of Goviva, a New York-based corporate travel and hospitality agency.

“The NFL definitely felt like they dodged that bullet this past year in New York.”

Super Bowl XLVIII in February at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., home to the New York Jets and New York Giants, was the first time the league staged the game outdoors in a cold weather market. The game started in 50-degree temperatures just ahead of a snowstorm that buried the area on Monday.

“Maybe we’re stupidly confident,” said Minnesota delegation co-chair Doug Baker, CEO of Ecolab. “We’re quite proud of the bid we put together. I think they want a first-class Super Bowl. I also think there’s political stuff we don’t understand.”

Rules of the game

One major advantage of Minnesota is the NFL’s history of awarding Super Bowls to markets that build new stadiums, particularly those that negotiate contentious public-private deals like Minnesota did.

The next three are scheduled in Glendale, Ariz., Santa Clara, Calif., and Houston.

It will be the second Super Bowl for Glendale, home to the Cardinals, since University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006.

The 2017 game at Houston’s NRG Stadium will be the second at the facility since opening in 2002. Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, new home to the San Francisco 49ers, will get the big game 18 months after opening for the 2014 season.

“The NFL likes to give the game to cities with new stadiums and then usually go back to the usual suspects,” Tuchman said.

Owners vote by secret ballot, so their motives can vary each bid cycle, according to Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s senior vice president for events.

Supovitz is the emissary between owners and delegations. His staff worked for months with each market to streamline and strengthen their bids, which were submitted May 7. Following the live presentations, Supovitz will compare and contrast the proposals for owners, who are scheduled to vote Tuesday afternoon.

“Every city that bids on a Super Bowl has a great story to tell, and each has something that causes them to rise above the rest,” Supovitz said. “Some of those (reasons) have been financial. Some have been community-impact or legacy related.

“Some of them have been the ability to go to a warm-weather market after a cold-weather Super Bowl has been staged. The diversity of the three cities involved right now, you can imagine three different points of emphasis that will make them the best Super Bowl site.”

A delegation can win on the first vote if it earns a supermajority (24 of 32 votes), although that is rare. If there is no supermajority after the third ballot, the third-place bid is dropped and the two remaining markets compete for a simple majority of 17 votes.

Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf, the team’s vice chairman, each have 10 owners to lobby. Bagley would not identify allies or speculate about how many votes the Vikings need.

Lobbying extends to the rest of the front office. Vice Presidents Steve LaCroix, Kevin Warren and Steve Poppen have been working the phones.

“We all have relationships with our peers at other NFL teams, and we’ve been talking with our peers within those teams as well,” Bagley said.

The field

Horse trading is intense, but respect tends to garner more votes than last-minute sweeteners, which the NFL quashed five years ago.

Indianapolis lost its initial bid in 2007 to Dallas, whose delegation pledged an additional $23 million worth of temporary seats and luxury suites to acquire Super Bowl XLV.

“We determined it defeated the purpose of the owners receiving the bids two weeks ahead of time if the nature of the bids were going to change so much,” Supovitz said. “You can clarify, but you can’t change deal points at that point.”

Indianapolis used that experience to strengthen its hand, returning the next year to beat out Glendale and Houston for Super Bowl XLVI. The delegation is more experienced and confident in 2014, according to Indiana Sports Corp. President Allison Melangton.

She pointed to a $30 million committee fully funded by private and corporate donors, compared with Minnesota, which reported 85 percent funding when it submitted its bid.

“You have to address your weaknesses,” Melangton said. “It’s important to dispel any concerns in the owners’ minds. We don’t have the corporate headquarter base that Minneapolis does; we knew it was important to document that we have prefunded our committee. That was something that we had to roll uphill last time.

“We’re not just saying we can run a Super Bowl; we know we can.”

New Orleans’ host committee did not disclose its budget. Representatives did not respond to telephone calls and email messages about the city’s Super Bowl bid.

Minnesota committee members will tout more than 19,000 hotel rooms within 30 minutes of the stadium, an extensive transportation infrastructure and “iconic” stadium that will be the NFL’s newest in 2018.

The delegation will encourage owners to embrace Minnesota’s weather. There will be ample skyways and heated canopies to soften winter’s bite and a curling rink on Nicollet Mall, and St. Paul has pledged to incorporate its Winter Carnival into Super Bowl week.

The Twin Cities are focusing more on offense than defense, according to Davis, the Minnesota co-chair.

“The other two cities I don’t think are that remarkable,” she said. “I think we have a better story to tell, and we’re going to make sure people know why we would be good as opposed to competing against some of their strengths or weakness, which (NFL owners) probably already know.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.