Records on Minn. Super Bowl bid show NFL’s request for snowplowing priority
By Doug Belden
ST. PAUL, Minn. — About a month before local officials made their winning pitch to the NFL to land Super Bowl 2018, metro-area mayors got an unusual-looking request.
An email dated April 23 from the public stadium authority included a draft letter asking the leaders of St. Paul, Minneapolis and Bloomington to promise the NFL it would receive “timely, selective and prioritized snow removal operations” during Super Bowl week.
It appeared the league was so skittish about winter in Minnesota that it wanted its folks to be plowed out first in case of a big storm.
The draft letter, included in a batch of documents released recently in response to a public records request, continued: “To carry out this pledge, we will devise a comprehensive prioritization plan based on the NFL’s lodging and schedule needs. This will ensure that teams are able to get to their practice sites in a timely manner, and that airport clearance will be a priority for arriving and departing passengers. … In addition, it will ensure that all main traffic arteries will be cleared based on a pre-identified Super Bowl Week Weather Plan.”
At least one mayor, St. Paul’s Chris Coleman, declined.
“No — I don’t want to be on record saying we will prioritize billionaires over everyday residents. Obviously we’ll do what needs to be done,” he wrote in an email to one of his staff members.
The letter was redrafted to emphasize the cities’ general competence with snow removal, without any mention of special treatment for visitors, the three mayors signed on and the letter was sent off as part of the Super Bowl bid package.
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, said Tuesday that the request for special treatment was a drafting error made by her staff and did not reflect a demand by the NFL.
The league reportedly does make extensive, pricey requests of Super Bowl host communities, including — according to a report last month in the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune — free access to bowling alleys, billboards, parking and other amenities.
But Kelm-Helgen said the NFL was not asking to jump the line for snow removal.
League officials were worried about the snow, she said, but they simply wanted a general assurance that it wouldn’t get in the way of Super Bowl events. “That emphasis saying that we would prioritize was not their specific request,” she said.
Information about what the NFL wanted and what local officials agreed to in their bid to land the 2018 Super Bowl has been hard to come by, because stadium authority officials and other officials involved in preparing the bid package have said it can’t be released publicly until after the game is played.
Local Super Bowl organizers have said that any local costs for additional security, snow removal or other services related to the Super Bowl will be paid by private fundraising rather than public money.
The emails cited above from the stadium authority and Coleman were released recently in response to a public records request from St. Paul-based Public Record Media, which asked for correspondence between the stadium authority and the three cities regarding public resources pledged to support the Super Bowl.
St. Paul released dozens of pages of email correspondence and attachments, and Bloomington provided a couple of documents. Minneapolis officials said they had nothing responsive to the terms of the data request.
Talk of ice palace
Included in the St. Paul documents is a letter from Coleman — solicited by the local Super Bowl bid co-chairs — supporting Minneapolis’ bid for the game.
There also is discussion of the possibility of the Winter Carnival having an ice palace in conjunction with the Super Bowl.
According to a May 21 email from city marketing director Jake Spano, there has been talk of doing a mini-castle in 2015, which could be a springboard to generate more support for a full castle in 2018.
“If we can get the NFL and Vikings to support it, it could be the big tie-in for STP during the superb (sic) bowl especially if we can locate the castle along the green line,” he wrote.
Tonya Tennessen, Coleman’s spokeswoman, said Monday that there are ongoing discussions about a 2018 ice palace but that specifics haven’t been nailed down.
The documents provided by the stadium authority contain discussion of turning Third Street in Minneapolis into a two-way street near the stadium site to accommodate traffic on game days and/ or the Super Bowl.
In a Feb. 7 email, MSFA senior stadium director Steve Maki asked Minneapolis city engineer Steve Kotke about the possibility, saying, “I could see this being a necessary 4-5 week requirement in and around a Superbowl.”
Kotke responded later that day that the rerouting is possible, but the idea had been put on hold because it wasn’t clear who would pay for it. The cost has been estimated at $7 million or more.
Kelm-Helgen said Tuesday that there have been conversations about such a rerouting project, but it is not being pursued at the moment. “Right now, it’s not in anybody’s budget, so it’s not planned,” she said.
Minneapolis was awarded the 2018 Super Bowl on May 20 at a meeting of NFL owners in Atlanta. The game will be played at the new $1 billion Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis, now under construction and scheduled to open in 2016.
— The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service