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U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, with the city visible through massive glass doors and windows on the west end, uses both clear roof panels and modern television lights to allow fans to enjoy temperature-controlled weather while natural light falls on the field. Minnesota Vikings photo

Minnesotans to welcome Super Bowl visitors to 10-day fest

MINNEAPOLIS—Jerry Williams and 10,000 other volunteers are ready to put Minnesota's best foot forward.

The volunteers from around Minnesota will greet and help Super Bowl visitors for the 10 days leading up to the main event on Sunday, Feb. 4, with smiles on their faces and plenty of information to share.

Williams, who retired as Rochester, Minn., school superintendent more than a decade ago, said that when he is at his downtown Minneapolis station he will jump into action "when I see people with that glazed-over look like, 'Where am I?'"

For many of what could be hundreds of thousands of Super Bowl visitors, volunteers will be the face of Minnesota. Super Bowl LII will feature the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in the game that will provide the most memories to people around the world (as well as the halftime show and, of course, the pricey commercials). But even though the game itself is the reason for the celebration, and the reason for dozens of related events, Minnesota Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said Minnesotans have plenty to do even if they cannot attend the game.

"Ticket prices are astronomical," he said about tickets that cost thousands of dollars per seat, a price bound to increase as the game nears. "It is hard to fathom for many Minnesotans."

The variety of free Super Bowl-related activities "make it accessible to everyone," Bagley said.

Events are as diverse as the Farm Bowl, a Land O' Lakes, effort to teach about agriculture, to concerts by leading entertainers such as Pink, Jennifer Lopez and the Dave Matthews Band. While some concert admissions can top $20,000, others will be free.

Nicollet Mall, where Williams will be stationed, features Super Bowl Live, a free attraction starting Friday, Feb. 26, that besides concerts will feature attractions as varied as a giant snow globe where visitors may be photographed to large ice sculptures to a Saturday, Feb. 3, snowmobile show.

Down the street at the Minneapolis Convention Center is the Super Bowl Experience that has been described as the Disneyland of football. The event, from Jan. 27 to Feb., costs $35 for adult tickets. It provides an NFL experience in virtual reality, free autographs from players, a close-up look at the Vince Lombardi Trophy (which goes to the Super Bowl winner) and other attractions.

People who live a beyond one-day drive to the festival or just the game may have a tough time finding lodging. Most Twin Cities rooms are booked, as well as rooms or entire houses owners rented out for a few days.

Minneapolis tourism leaders say there will be "extremely limited" lodging options on Super Bowl weekend, but on Jan. 27 and 28, as events get into full swing, they say rooms should be available.

St. Paul tourism officials are clear: "All city hotels are booked" for Super Bowl.

The search for rooms stretched well outside of the Twin Cities, which provides economic benefits for a wide area.

Those benefits have been predicted to be $400 million. But no one knows how big a financial injection the state received from the only other Minnesota Super Bowl.

University of Minnesota economist Wilbur Maki predicted before the 1992 event that it would pump $120 million into the economy. However, the media reported at the time, no one ever followed up to determine how much the area gained.

Nearly everyone saw one outcome from the 1992 Super Bowl: The NFL decided better halftime shows were needed.

Held in the Metrodome that was demolished to make way for the 2018 Super Bowl home U.S. Bank Stadium, the 1992 event included what many described as a not-very-exciting halftime show.

The halftime show, called "Winter Magic," featured a couple Olympic skaters, singer Gloria Estefan, the University of Minnesota marching band and dancing snowflakes.

The next year the NFL started booking big-name singers and turned the halftime show into a television extravaganza that attracted viewers who may not be so interested in the game itself.

This year, Justin Timberlake makes his second Super Bowl appearance, following one he shared with Janet Jackson, who experienced an infamous "wardrobe malfunction."

Timberlake has a Minnesota connection. His wife, Jessica Biel, is an Ely native.

Michael Howard of the Super Bowl Host Committee said Minnesotans should not assume the events and attractions are just for out-of-state visitors. "We very much want Minnesotans around the state to come and experience what the festival has to offer."

He suggested that people consider going early in the 10-day event, when fewer out-of-town visitors will be there.

The host committee has played up the state's cold weather, branding its events "Bold North."

Residents of more than 500 Minnesota cities applied for 10,000 volunteer positions with many winning the right to show how bold they are and will be out in the cold. Volunteers will be at key areas such as hotels, at Super Bowl events and the airport "to be that welcoming face to visitors" and help visitors find their destinations.

Williams will be a captain coordinating several other volunteers.

"It was just an an opportunity to do something I never have got to do and probably never do again," Williams said.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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