Minnesota lands 2018 Super Bowl
ATLANTA – The Minnesota Vikings lost four Super Bowls on the field, but they pulled off the ultimate upset Tuesday, beating out two established Super Bowl cities to land the NFL’s biggest prize.
Super Bowl LII, where are you? Minneapolis.
League owners awarded the 52nd championship game in 2018 to the Twin Cities, 26 years after Super Bowl XXVI was staged at the demolished Metrodome.
Not New Orleans, which was 10 for 10 in previous Super Bowl bids and preparing to celebrate its tricentennial in 2018.
And not Indianapolis, which was widely praised for hosting Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.
It took four nerve-racking rounds of secret balloting for Minnesota to secure a majority of votes from the 32 owners.
On Tuesday afternoon, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium inside the posh Ritz-Carlton hotel and casually made the announcement that set off a wild celebration of hurrahs, hugs and high-fives inside the Twin Cities delegation’s war room.
“I saw our Super Bowl committee in our green room, on TV,” Vikings chairman Zygi Wilf said. “The way they jumped for joy is the way I felt inside. We really feel great about it.”
Landing Super Bowl LII and its weeklong festival of football and commerce was a major coup for Zygi and his younger brother, Mark, the team’s president. They are in their 10th season as team owners.
The club had lobbied the state legislature for more than a decade by the time owners the Wilfs secured $498 million in taxpayer money to help build a futuristic $1 billion indoor stadium on the old Metrodome site, which was the centerpiece of the bid.
The public-private partnership and the Vikings’ contentious campaign to forge ahead were key factors, according to Goodell.
“The stadium project, the effort they had to bring that stadium to completion, the plans they have for it and the commitment that community has demonstrated was a positive influence on several owners that I talked to,” Goodell said.
Minneapolis robbed New Orleans of a record-setting 11th Super Bowl, and the city remains tied with Miami for the most ever. Indianapolis, which hosted Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, lost its initial bid in 2007.
Colts owner Jim Irsay made the case this year for Indianapolis, two months after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and following a stint in a rehabilitation clinic.
“We’re disappointed,” Irsay said. “You put so much effort into it. It’s like coming into the losing locker room.”
Indianapolis was eliminated after the second ballot after none of the three cities earned a supermajority (24 votes), setting up a runoff between New Orleans and Minneapolis.
“I thought I was going to pass out because I was holding my breath for all three,” said Minnesota delegation co-chair Marilyn Carlson Nelson.
Vote totals were not disclosed, but Carlson Nelson believed support for the Colts swung to Minnesota because of the kinship the two cold-weather markets shared in their competition against tropical party town New Orleans.
“There was no way New Orleans was going to be out first,” she said. “I got the sense that Indianapolis would realize the same thing we did about them. I think we all talked a little bit about the possibility we would really like to see the game move around. If it wasn’t one of us, we’d like it to be the other.”
The dramatic vote took an ominous turn when Saints owner Tom Benson collapsed and suffered a head injury during New Orleans’ presentation.
The 86-year-old arrived late Tuesday to the league’s spring meeting using the aid of a walker following knee surgery earlier this month. Benson struck his head on a table after turning to leave the podium and was hospitalized briefly, according to Goodell.
“Fortunately, he appears to be fine,” the commissioner said. “The initial reaction looks very positive. I went in the back and spoke to him before he left.”
The Minnesota delegation was the first to make its 15-minute presentation.
Davis and Carlson Nelson touted the “iconic” stadium that will be the NFL’s newest when it opens. They highlighted a host committee fully funded by $30 million in private and corporate donations, a sophisticated skyway and light rail transit system that can connect guests to 19,000 hotel rooms in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington and Roseville.
And they boasted of the Twin Cities’ 19 Fortune 500 companies, more per capita than any region in the country.
“I’ve never felt better and never wanted a do-over,” Davis said. “It went just exactly as we wanted.”
Legendary former Vikings coach Bud Grant and star running back Adrian Peterson headlined a cast that included Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and chef Andrew Zimmern. Their videotaped speeches brought Minnesota’s detailed bid to life.
“We can rejoice right now for being rewarded, but the hard work is yet to come,” said Zygi Wilf. “We’re going to work hard to make sure it’s a great stadium and that the Super Bowl will be a success for everyone to enjoy and establish the Twin Cities as a place where our fans will show their love of football. That’s what’s exciting for me.”
After the announcement, praise poured in from across Minnesota’s political spectrum, including U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, plus Gov. Mark Dayton, who partnered with the Wilfs two years ago to lobby the Legislature to pass a stadium bill.
“On behalf of all Minnesotans, I want to thank co-chairs Doug Baker, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, and Richard Davis, and the Minnesota Vikings, for their superb and successful efforts to bring the 2018 Super Bowl to Minnesota,” Dayton said in a statement.
“Hosting the Super Bowl will provide a terrific opportunity to showcase Minnesota to the world. It will also bring major economic benefits to our state.”
Davis predicted an economic impact of more than $350 million for Minnesota, though some economists say it will be a fraction of that amount.
The delegation returned to Minnesota on Tuesday night with the grand prize and new marching orders.
“We’ve got a lot commitments we’ve made, all of which we’ll deliver after we go back and celebrate with the community,” Davis said. “We have 3½ years, but we’re going to act like we have to be ready tomorrow.”
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.