MINNEAPOLIS — Many of the feelings in Minnesota this week were a little colder and darker than the usual wintry conditions, even with Super Bowl 52 coming closer into view.
The Vikings fell one win short of landing on the NFL’s biggest stage, leaving the local mood a bit less festive than the hysteria that would’ve enveloped an unprecedented appearance by the home team in the big game.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be here seeking their first Lombardi Trophy instead, trying to deny the New England Patriots a sixth Super Bowl title that would match the most of all time.
“It’s going to be hard to watch them come play in our stadium next week,” Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph said after the 38-7 loss to the Eagles in the NFC championship game.
This is Minnesota’s second Super Bowl, having hosted it at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome after the 1991-92 season, but it will also likely be its last. The NFL’s sporadic northern stops in the warm-weather-areas rotation are simply fulfillments of promises made to municipalities for pumping public money into new stadiums like the $1.1 billion project that produced U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016. New Jersey had the most recent one four years ago, the only northern Super Bowl played outside to date. Indianapolis hosted two seasons before that. The Detroit area has had two.
After finishing 13-3 in the regular season and winning their divisional round playoff game on a last-play touchdown pass, now known as the Minneapolis Miracle, the Vikings were on track to be the first team to play a Super Bowl on home turf until the Eagles ruined that goal. The Atlanta Falcons are next in line to try next year.
The Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 14 and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 19 played in their local market, but neither of those games were actually held in their home stadium. The Vikings came by far the closest of any team.
Maureen Bausch, the chief executive officer of Minnesota’s Super Bowl host committee, was a little worried about the vibe while the Vikings were getting blown out last week. She checked the Facebook page for committee’s crew of volunteers in the fourth quarter and started to smile.
“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, are we all going to be sad?’” Bausch said. “They’re the most amazing group. They were already posting on there, ‘You guys, this is too bad, but when we signed on, we signed on to represent Minnesota, and we are going to give the warmest possible welcome to the world no matter who plays.’ I was just so moved.”
Yes, despite the disappointment in the air over the home team’s latest deflating loss on the cusp of a Super Bowl, a bitterness in some corners that was exacerbated by stories of Vikings-fan-harassing and full-beer-can-throwing rowdies in Philadelphia at the NFC championship game last weekend, this is still the place where the trite-but-true slogan “Minnesota Nice” was spawned.
“Once people are starting to let their wounds heal with the loss, in true Minnesota fashion, everybody will be friendly and welcoming,” said Jeff Hahn, the owner of Day Block Brewing Company, a restaurant and brewpub located two blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium. “We are definitely more laid back than perhaps one of the two teams coming into town, but I think everybody will find that the hospitality here is friendly and nice, and we live in a neat city. I think people will be impressed with how beautiful the city is, even if it’s cold out.”
Threats of signing up to drive for ride-sharing services so they can intentionally drop Eagles fans off in the wrong spots or cancelling Airbnb rentals to travelers from Pennsylvania have most likely been social media users blowing off steam.
The storm that dropped more than a foot of snow on the Twin Cities came the day after the NFC championship game letdown, giving the locals an immediate opportunity to change the subject. There’s enough time before kickoff and enough pride in the chance to show off on the biggest stage in sports that the public face of this Super Bowl site probably won’t be frowning by the time the Patriots, the Eagles and the rest of the celebrity, corporate and football circles descend on the area.
“Treat everyone like you would want to be treated, right?” said Kerry Rauschendorfer, a Minneapolis resident who’s one of the 10,000 volunteers on official duty during the week of the game.
He’ll be working shifts in the skyway system, tasked with helping visitors navigate the maze of more than 8 miles of enclosed footbridges that span almost every street in the downtown Minneapolis core and allow a person to spend an entire day of employment, entertainment and exercise without stepping outside. The grid includes an entrance into U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Patriots and Eagles will be staying at luxury hotels adjacent to the Mall of America, the country’s largest entertainment and retail complex that sits in Bloomington on the suburban site where the Vikings once played before moving downtown and indoors. That’s another place where visitors can have fun and relax without a parka.
Winter around here, however, doesn’t automatically mean hibernation.
The Super Bowl committee’s theme is “Bold North “ a reflection of the culture that bundles up and embraces the longest of the four seasons rather than running from it. At the NFL’s Super Bowl Live festivities along Nicollet Mall downtown, there’s a bridge for cross-country skiing, biking and tubing through 85 truckloads of snow. A few blocks away, a zip line is set up to take daredevils across a portion of the frozen Mississippi River. In the other twin city, St. Paul, there’s a 70-foot ice palace set up at its annual winter carnival.
The forecast for the weekend of the Super Bowl is predicting low temperatures around zero degrees.
“When people say something about the weather, we can’t say we didn’t warn them, right?” Bausch said. “It is cold, so enjoy it.”