People outside Twin Cities hope for Super Bowl benefit

A couple of Otter Tail County festivals and one in Duluth are timed to coincide with the Super Bowl, but state tourism officials say few other greater Minnesota events are connected directly with the game. However, hotels, motels and airports hope for a jump in business as the Twin Cities may not be able to accommodate all the activity.

"With conversations that we've had ... obviously the airport is the gateway and after that it's a matter of promoting the businesses and the bars and restaurants here and making sure people are safe," said City Administrator Mike Darrow of New Richmond, Wis.

Communities like New Richmond, 43 miles from the Super Bowl's home in U.S. Bank Stadium on the edge of downtown MInneapolis, hope their airports look more inviting than those in the Twin Cities that likely will be very busy just before the game and, especially, soon after the game between New England and Philadelphia ends.

Minnesota communities such as Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud are likely airplane destinations, but it is not clear how much they will benefit from the Super Bowl.

The Federal Aviation Administration predicts that more than 1,000 planes will be in Minnesota for the Super Bowl, perhaps a lot more.

Hotels and motels could gain customers for a few days.

Rooms can be costly. One St. Cloud hotel, for instance, was sold out of its $1,418 rooms, a much higher price than usual.

St. Cloud hotels reported last spring that they were nearly booked already.

Rooms were selling well in other greater Minnesota communities, such as Rochester and Mankato, and interest in them was expected to increase in the final days before the Super Bowl as New England and Philadelphia fans began to scramble for places to stay.

Michael Howard of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee said one greater Minnesota Super Bowl benefit will be that some of the 5,800 reporters in the state to cover the event will venture outside the Twin Cities. He said Super Bowl officials have fielded lots of calls from media personnel who want to experience other parts of Minnesota.
He said the host committee is helping arrange visits to places where reporters may ice fish and ride snowmobiles, as well as to take in other greater Minnesota winter activities.

But economist Michael Boland of the University of Minnesota questioned how much that will help.

Taking a reporter to ride a snowmobile probably would not attract others to the sport, he said. "People who are going to do that stuff are going to do it. ... People already think about us as a state to go to for ice fishing and snowmobiling."

Few people going to the game will be in Minnesota long enough to enjoy other attractions, Boland added, because they likely will fly in just a day or two in advance.

Tourism officials, however, say they hope television and newspaper exposure will put a Minnesota vacation in people's minds.

One greater Minnesota pick-up from the Super Bowl may be surprising: Free law enforcement training.

Sixty law enforcement departments from around the state are sending officers to help, for a day or for all 10 days of the game-related festival, and they are receiving training that could help when they return home. They will help "with all facets of public safety," Minneapolis officer John Elder said.

"Any time I am put into a new situation as a police officer, I learn," the public information officer said. "I take that experience with me."

Working a few days in Minneapolis may provide new experiences, such as dealing with homeless people, he said. Some of those experiences are rare in greater Minnesota.

The training will include situations such as crowd control, traffic control, how to deal with media and what to do when a suspicious package is found. But Elder said the chance to network with other officers could be even more valuable.

The National Football League pays for officers from police departments, sheriffs' offices and the State Patrol. The state National Guard has been activated, mostly for behind-the-scenes duty.

Greater Minnesota communities have received funds from the Super Bowl committee to finance children health and wellness projects.

Howard said communities outside of the Twin Cities received 75 percent of the grants, for a total of 56 projects. The committee handed out $4.5 million over the past year.

One example of the projects is $100,000 that went to the Lower Sioux Community in western Minnesota to update an existing recreation center and add a lacrosse field as well as improving a community kitchen. In southern Minnesota, $50,000 was provided to Waseca to help rebuild the historic Tink Larson baseball field, where the grandstand and locker rooms were destroyed in a 2016 fire.

Some organizations decided not to hold their annual meetings in the Twin Cities to avoid being swamped by football fans.

Dan Tjornehoj of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association said his group was one.

"When we were in the planning process a few years ago we learned that the downtown Minneapolis hotels that we typically work with were not able to book our convention because we were told the NFL and Super Bowl committee needed to place a hold on meeting space and rooms," he said.

The veterinarian group opted to meet in Rochester.