MINNEAPOLIS -- They could talk about the plans for a revamped downtown. They could tout the Twin Cities' robust group of Fortune 500 companies that had already helped raise more than $30 million for the game. But the Minneapolis bid committee had one irrefutable $1 billion crown jewel in its case for the 2018 Super Bowl: the NFL's newest stadium.
Let's be clear: Super Bowl LII is coming to Minneapolis, and not New Orleans, because of the Vikings' new stadium. It takes something special to take the big game away from the Big Easy; in fact, no one had ever done it. New Orleans had bid for 10 Super Bowls before Tuesday's decision. It had gotten all of them, and its bid for an 11th Super Bowl, centered around a massive celebration to commemorate the city's tricentennial, seemed like the favorite. But Minneapolis could point to the new facility that will open in 2016, and more often than not in today's NFL climate, the city with the shiniest stadium gets the big stage.
Three of the last four Super Bowls have been played in new stadiums, and the 2016 Super Bowl will be played at Levi's Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers' new facility in Santa Clara, Calif. The NFL hasn't awarded a Super Bowl to Miami since 2009, as the Dolphins push for renovations to Sun Life Stadium. By the time the game comes to Minneapolis, there will have been more 21st-century Super Bowls in Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana than there will have been in California. If the NFL is willing to take its marquee event away from some of its most hospitable destinations -- and put it in cold-weather climates -- there has to be a good reason for doing so. The reason is clear: The league has sent a clear message that communities who build new stadiums -- doing so in most cases with large sums of taxpayer dollars -- will get rewarded. When the Minnesota State Legislature approved the Vikings' new stadium in 2012, it did so with a clear eye toward this day, and now, there's a maturation date for the payoff.
Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl once before, welcoming the nation for the Washington Redskins' 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. The Metrodome hosted two Final Fours, a MLB All-Star Game and two World Series. The Twin Cities has plenty of experience hosting big events, and by 2018, Minneapolis will have a larger public transportation system, major changes to Block E centered around a new Timberwolves practice facility and a Mayo Clinic sports medicine center and a new park just west of the Vikings' new stadium (though there's no such thing as 'green space' in Minnesota in February).
But the reason the Super Bowl hadn't come back to Minnesota since 1992 was simple: The NFL needed a new facility in which to house the game. Minnesota has promised to deliver one, and the league rewarded it in a big way on Tuesday. There's no guarantee the game will make more than one visit to the Vikings' new home, but Tuesday's announcement was a significant enough payoff on a $1 billion investment.