Super Bowl LII means good news for her ice cream truck and other side gigs, but not everyone will score
MINNEAPOLIS—Katie Romanski is hoping Super Bowl LII will throw a few customers to her small business—an ice cream truck that piles on toppings such as "Edible Glitter."
"Me and my tiny food truck are going down to Nicollet Avenue to sell molten lava brownies in waffle cones with bacon, caramel, walnuts, sprinkles and Edible Glitter," said Romanski, a 32-year-old restaurant manager who emptied her bank account in preparation for 10 frigid days of outdoor ice cream sales.
Could the sporting event of the year boost her "Minnesota Nice Cream" sales in the dead of winter?
"I've been working so hard and I've literally put all of my money into it in hopes of the Super Bowl being a bang," she said. "We are prepping to serve 500 to 1,000 people per day."
Romanski, of Minneapolis, isn't the only self-starter expecting to increase sales, pick up an extra work shift or rev up her "side hustle" by the time the Super Bowl lands at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, Feb. 4.
Snow remover Dan Garrity, 28, arrives at the Windsor Cos. trailer near U.S. Bank Stadium at 6:30 a.m. and sometimes runs plows until 10:30 pm, depending upon snowfall.
"I think I was at 45 hours as of Wednesday," said Garrity, who knows exactly how he'll spend his overtime earnings—on his first child. "I've got a kid coming Feb. 21. I could get the call any day now."
The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee estimates each Twin Cities visitor will spend an average of $625 per day—a total of $400 million in new spending—and everyday people are hoping to cash in.
That means Uber drivers and pedicab drivers, caterers and Airbnb hosts, security and event personnel all hope to score a profit.
Add in private dancers, ticket scalpers, unlicensed T-shirt sellers and other members of the "informal" or "underground" economy, and there's an entire subculture of labor spawned by less than four televised hours of professional football.
Of course, there's so much more to the game than the event itself. The Super Bowl Live fan festival along six blocks of Nicollet Mall will span 10 days, for instance. And the cascade of activities leading up to Feb. 4 signals the possibility of extra cash for the committed.
"I've driven for Lyft before when I was between jobs for extra money, and now that the Super Bowl is coming, I'm going to pick it back up," said Claire Bjerke, 24, a public information officer with the St. Paul police. "I've referred three people who are also going to be driving."
But not everyone will score.
Some entrepreneurs who did not make the Super Bowl Host Committee's list of "preferred vendors"—or who did not know how to apply—say they feel boxed out of the festivities, and the potential profits.
"It's terrifying for me and my bank account," said Scott Nichols, aka "The Amazing Scott," a large-sculpture balloon decorator who specializes in columns, arches and elaborate balloon art. "I expected to be getting calls by now, and I haven't been."
A creative director at Red Experience Design event company, which is in downtown Minneapolis about a mile from U.S. Bank Stadium, said the preferred vendor list was put together too quietly.
"You really had to find out how to be a vendor to figure out that opportunity," said the director, who goes by the professional name Thea-T. "That is my concern—small vendors not realizing there was an online registration and 'approved vendor' process."
Bartenders, actresses, dancers, salesmen
Johnathan Johnson, 30, of St. Paul considers himself lucky.
Through contacts, the "RepMyRoots" T-shirt and sporting apparel salesman found an opportunity to share retail space in a Super Bowl Live vendor's tent primarily occupied by Hippy Feet, a social organization that sells apparel and donates socks to the homeless.
"You definitely had to be networking and paying attention to the different groups that are organizing pop-ups," said Johnson, who will spend more than a week at Ninth Street and Nicollet selling Super Bowl-themed merchandise in the Hippy Feet Warming House. "With all the security, it's hard to just do your own thing."
But the Minnesota Vikings' recent loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game means Johnson will have to retool his entire product line, which he hoped would include Vikings colors. Instead, the Eagles will face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
"I think it would have been more successful if the Vikings had been in the big game," he acknowledged. "I'm relaunching my website, marketing it toward the Super Bowl for fans who are homegrown in the New England area ... and also for Philadelphia fans."
In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, Waris Syed is marketing himself as a man about town. For sporting events, his 6-year-old Minneapolis-based concierge company, Mircierge, has connected upscale clients with—well, everything.
That includes anything from "sourcing tickets to the game, to tickets for all the special concerts, private jets to fly into the cities for the game, hotel rooms, to even finding sponsors for events," said Syed, of Minneapolis, who calls the Super Bowl a "hustler's dream."
"It's more of a side hustle for me," said Syed, whose day job revolves around sports and entertainment marketing. "I really set up my concierge business to monetize all the favors people ask for."
The Super Bowl brings with it several days of private parties, including celebrity events like performer Justin Timberlake's album-listening session, which takes place three days before the game at Prince's Paisley Park studios in Chanhassen, Minn.
For those events to unfold, organizers need bartenders, servers, caterers, dancers, security personnel, valets, make-up artists and party people who know how to keep the fun rolling.
"A lot of the stuff will be after-parties or concerts," said Anna Jones, a Twin Cities model and event assistant, who expects to keep busy for several nights running.
St. Paul may not offer the same kind of nightclub party scene as Minneapolis, but there's still money to be made.
At O'Gara's Bar and Grill in St. Paul, college students and other servers with busy day lives are rearranging their schedules and picking up extra shifts in preparation for a steady stream of customers on Super Bowl weekend, said assistant general manager Laura Henriksen.
Joe Fowler, business manager for Construction Laborers Local 563 in Minneapolis, said the Super Bowl has been good to his union, driving up demand for everything from snow removal to labor for the decorative fence wrap around U.S. Bank Stadium, as well as offsite construction projects at event locations like Nicollet Island.
"We've got an extra hundred people out there right now," said Fowler.
The St. Paul-based Windsor Cos. will clear snow from the U.S. Bank Stadium perimeter, including steps, entryways, sidewalks and streets for blocks in every direction.
"They've leased every lot around, including buildings, and we're responsible for the whole kit and caboodle," said Gene Warner, the Windsor Cos.' facilities manager and logistics coordinator.
"We've divided it into seven different zones, and we actually have seven different zone managers because it's so massive," he said. "We can clean everything in a day. We leave nothing on-site. Pristine is the word they want—we can't have any snow on the ground. We're down here cleaning around every light pole, every garbage can."
For the Super Bowl, Twin Town Pedicabs plans a full-court press.
"We're going to have 50 pedicabs on the street," said fleet manager Steve Bodi, who will call in some 20 bicycle-taxi operators from throughout the Midwest to supplement his 30 Twin Cities regulars. In other words, he's sending out everyone.
Carlton McDonald, a pedicab driver and recruiter, said that on a typical Friday or Saturday night in downtown Minneapolis, drivers can make $50 to $100 per hour over the course of three or fours.
For the 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl, he's predicting profits will more than double, in part because of longer hours, more people and events, and closed-off streets and restricted stadium entrances.
"It will be bumper-to-bumper traffic," McDonald said. "There will be specific places where Uber and cabs can drop off (visitors near U.S. Bank Stadium)—and they can't get to the entrances. They're going to be restricted to a certain lot."
That should mean exponentially more customers, McDonald said.
"Our drivers typically make a couple hundred bucks on a Friday or Saturday night,: he said. "With this event, they can make $5,000 on up over 10 days. ... You've got high-end tourists and celebrities. We will be specifically focused on Minneapolis."