New stadium also named finalist for NCAA Final Four
By Patrick Condon
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Even if Minneapolis temperatures four years from now don't climb above zero — like they haven't for much of this month — the Vikings' new indoor stadium would be the ideal venue for the 2018 Super Bowl, political and business leaders said Monday.
Ticketholders to this weekend's Seahawks-Broncos matchup in chilly New Jersey are preparing to dress in layers as they brave the outdoor Met Life Stadium. Minnesota boosters promised that even if the winter of 2018 is a repeat of this year, it would be 70 degrees in the stadium, whose partially see-through roof and massive windows will offer great views of the elements outside.
By Monday afternoon, the thermometer had only climbed to 7 below zero in Minneapolis.
"It's kind of ironic, because Minnesota will offer the more climate controlled venue," said Michele Kelm Helgen, chairwoman of the government authority overseeing the new stadium's construction. "So you'll feel like you're outside, but you won't have to worry about cold, you won't have to worry about rain, you won't have to worry about storms."
Construction of the new stadium will begin once crews have finished demolishing the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome at the site. It's expected to be ready for the 2016 season. Sixty percent of its roof will be made of ETFE, a clear-plastic like substance — more than any other covered stadium in the NFL. It will also feature several 200-foot-tall windows, and will be connected by indoor skyway to downtown hotels and restaurants.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and a team of business and community leaders formally launched Minnesota's bid on Monday, with plans to raise corporate donations and send a delegation to New York City this weekend to schmooze with NFL bigwigs.
NFL team owners are scheduled to select the site of the 52nd Super Bowl at a May meeting in Atlanta. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority also announced Monday that the new stadium was one of eight finalists being considered to host an NCAA Final Four tournament sometime between 2017 and 2020. That decision will be made in November.
The other Super Bowl finalists are Indianapolis, which hosted the game two years ago, and New Orleans, which hosted it last year. Minneapolis has only staged football's biggest game once, in 1992, when the Washington Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills 37-24 in the covered Metrodome.
That was only the second Super Bowl to be held in a cold-weather city, following the 1982 game at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. The games have much more frequently been held in warmer cities; New Orleans has hosted 10 in all.
This weekend's game in East Rutherford is the first ever scheduled for an outdoor stadium in a winter climate. The NFL is leaving "warm welcome kits" on every seat in Met Life stadium, which include hand warmers and a muffler, a neck wrap, a set of commemorative Super Bowl earmuffs, lip balm and tissues. New Jersey forecasts call for temperatures around 35 degrees by kickoff.
The forecast high in Minneapolis on Sunday is 13 degrees. But Richard Davis, CEO of Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp and co-chairman of Minnesota's Super Bowl bid, issued his own forecast for January 2018: "It's going to be 70 degrees inside that stadium," he said.
Lester Bagley, a Vikings vice president, said he believed Minneapolis has a strong chance to land Super Bowl LII.
"The NFL now awards and rewards communities for stepping up on stadiums," Bagley said. Dayton and Minnesota lawmakers approved the financing package in 2012, after nearly a decade of lobbying by successive Vikings owners. Funds for the nearly $1 billion project come from a roughly 50-50 split between taxpayers and team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf. The Vikings will play two seasons in the outdoor TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota while their new home is built.
Bagley noted that NFL owners awarded the 2016 Super Bowl to the San Francisco 49ers' new Levi's Stadium in suburban Santa Clara, which is set to open for the 2014 season. "We're about two years behind San Francisco," Bagley said.