by Brenden Nickels
Brenden Nickels is a blogger, sports fan and office assistant in the KA Minneapolis office.
On the first Sunday of February, we gather around the television set to witness an event like no other. The AFC and NFC champions (in this case, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles) meet for one final battle on the gridiron to determine who hoists up the Vince Lombardi Trophy and is the champion of the National Football League. (Also, there’s a big-time recording artist performing at halftime, and a lot of funny commercials, but to me, the game itself is the meat and potatoes of the whole thing.) This season, the Super Bowl will be held here in the Twin Cities, at US Bank Stadium, the home stadium of our Minnesota Vikings. This will mean a lot of tourists, celebrities, and fans of the Patriots and Eagles coming to our fair Twin Cities.
A competitive sports landscape
The Twin Cities is a very competitive pro sports landscape, as it is one a few metropolitan areas with a team from each of the four major pro sports leagues (MLB, the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL), plus the WNBA, MLS and independent league baseball. We’ve hosted the Super Bowl once before in 1992, at the Metrodome, and most recently, we’ve hosted the MLB All-Star Game at Target Field in 2014.
Like most locals, I’ll be laying low on gameday and staying home to watch it all unfold. But I do plan to attend some of the events that will be happening around town. There will be free concerts on Nicollet Mall as part of Super Bowl Live, and the Minneapolis Convention Center will host the Super Bowl Experience, a football-themed exhibition.
I went to Super Bowl Live on the first night it opened, and it was already a crowd when I got there. (It probably wasn’t a surprise, since the weather was nice that day.) There were food trucks and stands everywhere, a skating rink at Peavey Plaza, warming houses, and ice sculptures of the Lombardi Trophy, the Vikings gjallarhorn, and LII, the roman numeral for 52 (which was being built as I stopped by). It kind of felt like a wintertime, football-oriented State Fair, while at the same time, was still the same Nicollet Mall that we’re all used to.
A Super Experience
I then went to the Super Bowl Experience the next day, and it was an enjoyable time. I was not interested in any of the interactive game activities (they are mostly targeted towards kids), but I was more interested in the history of the game and the NFL. I got to see a timeline of how the league and the pro game has evolved, as well as a selection of artifacts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I saw the busts of Cris Carter, Bud Grant, Brett Favre, and Reggie White, to name a few. It was also cool to see how footballs were made at the Wilson (the company that makes the balls for the NFL) booth, too.
Not all of the big events will be taking place in Minneapolis alone. St. Paul has expanded its annual Winter Carnival by a few more days in anticipation of the Super Bowl, and they will be building another ice palace in Rice Park this season. I was there on the first night it was lit, and it was a good celebration. In addition to the lighting, there also was a fireworks show set to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”, which I found to be an interesting surprise. (Interesting fact: There’s a walleye hidden in the ice palace, frozen inside of one of the blocks.)
Super Bowl memories
When we hosted the Super Bowl in 1992, the world’s largest ice palace was featured at the Winter Carnival then, and I recall taking a shuttle bus to Harriet Island to witness it in person. This was pretty much my only memory of the Super Bowl then, since I was only 5 at the time. It turned out to be a sensory overload for my little kid brain, which is probably why I don’t remember much of it. Another ice palace was built in 2004, when the Xcel Energy Center hosted the 2004 NHL All-Star Game, and I went to that too, but I don’t remember much about that too, except it was a cold night and we also went to the Torchlight Parade that night.
Even though there may be a few inconveniences throughout this time, I think it gives us a chance to show what a very diverse area we are. When many out-of-towners think of us, they usually think of 10,000 Lakes, Mary Tyler Moore, Prince, and “Yah, sure, you betcha!” This is yet another opportunity to show that we’re more than that.