ATLANTA — Minneapolis’ stadium-trumpeting pitch triumphed over party magnet New Orleans and earnest Indianapolis on Tuesday to win the 2018 Super Bowl.
Minneapolis’ theme, “Built for the Bold,” emphasized the new $1 billion Vikings stadium under construction and the state’s friendly ethos.
When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the victor after the 32 NFL team owners’ fourth ballot, raucous cheers and shouts of “We did it!” from Minnesotans reverberated in the hallways of the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead neighborhood, where the high-stakes drama played out.
Richard Davis, U.S. Bancorp CEO, and Marilyn Carlson Nelson, former board chair of Carlson Cos., who led Minnesota’s team, danced, jumped up and down, hugged and high-fived, along with Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley, Melvin Tennant of the group Meet Minneapolis, Michael Langley of Greater MSP, and Michele Kelm-Helgen, executive director of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.
“The way they jumped for joy was the way I felt inside,” Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said later at a news conference.
“We’re going to make football fans everywhere proud,” said his brother, Mark Wilf.
Minnesota last hosted a Super Bowl in 1992. The big game is coveted by league cities because it goes well beyond being the summit of a sports season. It brings with it a two-week media circus, millions of dollars of spending and an incalculable civic boost.
Mark Wilf, who gave Minneapolis’ five-minute closing argument to the owners during their closed-door pre-vote meeting, said he emphasized the public-private partnership of the stadium. He also told the owners that the Super Bowl would validate the stadium as a top-notch facility for generations of Minnesotans.
Bringing the Super Bowl to Minneapolis is a coup for the Wilfs, New Jersey businessmen who have owned the team for a decade and who are still considered suspicious outsiders by some Minnesotans. They lobbied furiously for a new stadium until the Legislature relented in 2012.
Said New York Giants owner John Mara: “I think that’s what swayed most of the owners.”
The vote is secret so that even now, the individual tallies won’t be made public. But it wasn’t a slam-dunk for Minnesota. No team received the required super-majority on the first, second or third ballots. Indianapolis was dropped after the second ballot for having the least votes. The final ballot required only a simple majority of votes, and Minnesota won.
Members of the state’s delegation beamed as they walked into a media room for a news conference to talk about the victory. Maybe it was Carlson Nelson’s glamorous bright purple dress or Davis’ purple tie, but the Minneapolis team had strutted through the Ritz-Carlton lobby to the NFL owners’ meeting room with more pizzazz and purpose than the dark-suited teams from the other cities.
To prepare for their presentation, Carlson Nelson and Davis sat at the head of the table in the Minneapolis war room. She admitted to being nervous. He smiled. Somebody played Queen’s anthem “We Are the Champions” on their phone as everyone sang along, danced and held hands.
They came out of their 15-minute presentation satisfied that they’d left nothing unsaid. Davis playfully mugged before the interview for the cameras, saying, “What up, Minnesota?” Carlson Nelson got misty as she spoke of her pride in the quality of the presentation and her hometown. “If only you knew these people,” she said she wanted to tell the owners. “They’re so authentic. They’re so real.”
It all paid off. In a television interview after the victory, an ebullient Carlson Nelson said, “Tell everybody to come!”
What Minnesota pitched
Before the presentation, Minnesota’s steering committee members held their cards tight, but afterward they revealed the bid’s theme and emphasis on the ease of navigating the Twin Cities and plans to make the Mall of America a hub of action.
They also told the owners that the St. Paul Winter Carnival has agreed to build an eight-story ice castle — the first since 2014. And that Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is bigger than either airport in the other cities. And that light-rail transit will make ground travel easy.
Davis told the owners that the Mall of America, which will double in size and offer four new hotels by 2018, would be home to marquee Super Bowl events. “It’s a place no one else has,” he said.
Other details that emerged after the vote: The committee committed to bringing in Mayo Clinic physicians to work with youth on sports safety and nutrition as part of the philanthropic legacy of the 2018 game, Carlson Nelson said.
The bid committee came prepared to win, and all members intend to stay on as they change their effort’s focus to planning.
“We have 3½ years, but we’re going to act like it’s starting tomorrow,” Davis said. And indeed, as soon the announcement was made, billboards heralding the game and featuring the new stadium were unveiled in the Twin Cities.
As soon as 2017’s 51st Super Bowl is over in Houston, a Minnesota CEO will be paired with an NFL owner to begin work on the yearlong lead-up. And volunteer recruiting will start immediately, Carlson Nelson said.
New stadium was key
The polish and glitz of the three cities’ presentations may actually have meant little. In their comments after the vote, NFL owners and Goodell all singled out the new Minnesota Multipurpose Stadium, which is set to open for the Vikings’ 2016 season.
“That won the day,” said Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. “The public really stepped up and supported in a major way a state-of-the-art stadium.”
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan said the same, adding that sending a Super Bowl to a city with a new stadium is “a great NFL tradition.”
Goodell called the stadium the “distinguishing factor” in favor of the Twin Cities.
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson said, “The thing that stood out to me was the commitment the people of Minnesota gave to the Vikings. The owners responded to that.”
Mark Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, is trying to get public help for a new stadium. “It’s an important message for those in the Bay Area — If you can get something done, you will be recognized for it,” he said.
Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco Giants, will be home to the 2016 Super Bowl — two years after opening.
At the end of his news conference, Goodell was still talking stadiums — this time about the need for one in Buffalo for the long-term viability of the Bills. “You need to have the revenue streams,” he said of new stadiums. “You need to have the kind of facility that people want to come to.”