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Brian Murphy, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published March 14 2014

NFL: Winning Super Bowl bid likely to include tax breaks

MINNEAPOLIS – The NFL put the Minnesota Legislature on notice Friday that failing to deliver tax breaks on Super Bowl tickets could hamper the Twin Cities’ ability to host the 2018 game at the new Vikings stadium.

Six league executives concluded a two-day review of stadium site plans, transportation infrastructure and hospitality venues that local organizers believe will help lure the big game back to the market for the first time since 1992.

However, state lawmakers are debating whether to grant league-mandated waivers on sales taxes on game tickets and related events during the week leading up to Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018.

“It’s an incredibly competitive environment,” said Frank Supovitz, NFL senior vice president of events. “All of those types of considerations really figure into what the bottom line of a Super Bowl might be and whether it is financially competitive.”

The Twin Cities is competing with Indianapolis and New Orleans to host Super Bowl LII.

Following years of contentious debate, the Legislature in 2012 approved $498 million in public subsidies to help the Vikings build a new stadium on the site of the Metrodome, which is being razed. The team has committed at least $477 million to the project.

With the team’s lease set to expire in 2012, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell lobbied lawmakers to resolve the Vikings’ stadium issue and said the league would strongly consider returning for another Super Bowl if a new facility was built.

“I wouldn’t call it a fait accompli,” Supovitz said. “I would say it was something that was incredibly helpful to that process. There has been a record on behalf of the NFL to support communities that have built new buildings in public-private partnerships. You look at the track record, and it’s there.

“There’s no quid-pro-quo. It’s still a competitive bid process, and that’s why so many people are working for such a long period of time to make sure the best Twin Cities bid goes forward.”

Super Bowl bids are due April 1. Supovitz’s staff will analyze each 190-page proposal, but they do not recommend markets. The NFL’s 32 owners will select the 2018 site by majority vote during their May 19-21 meeting in Atlanta.

Rep. Pat Garafalo, R-Farmington, pushed back against the NFL this month by introducing a bill that would block tax breaks for the Super Bowl.

“The legislature finds that the provision of substantial state-funded, public financing for the professional football stadium constitutes the maximum amount of state assistance that is appropriate for state taxpayers to provide to host a Super Bowl,” says the bill, which does not have a Senate companion.

Stadium authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm Helgren pointed out that the Twin Cities’ competitors, Indianapolis and New Orleans, hosted Super Bowls in 2012 and 2013, respectively, after including tax breaks in their successful bids.

She said Indianapolis reported a $40 million net gain in tax revenue from hosting the Super Bowl.

“What is the tax revenue we’re going to leave on the table if we don’t win this bid?” Kelm Helgren said. “At some point people have to look at what the tax gain is that we would be giving up if we’re not competitive. If they don’t come, we don’t have any of that.”

The 70,000-seat stadium is scheduled to open in 2016, giving the Vikings two seasons to troubleshoot and streamline operations before Super Bowl LII.

Kelm Helgren and Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley led league executives on a tour of the stadium site, Minneapolis convention center, Orchestra Hall and the Ordway Theater – possible sites for the NFL awards show – plus the light rail transportation hub at St. Paul’s Union Depot.

Super Bowl Boulevard, the NFL’s popular street fair, is expected to run down a renovated Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, where fire pits and other heating devices would help keep fans warm.

The league requires a minimum of 19,000 hotel rooms and viable transportation to move upwards of 120,000 visitors scattered throughout Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington and Roseville.

“We know how to do big things well and we have a great new stadium,” Bagley said. “We showed the NFL we have the venues, the logistics, the transportation system and the stadium. We got a great start, but we aren’t going to get there without the strong leadership of our civic leaders and corporate group and a strong bid.”

An unsuccessful 2018 bid still could position the Twin Cities to host an ensuing Super Bowl.

Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based sports business consulting firm SportsCorp, is skeptical the Twin Cities will beat out New Orleans, which is tied with Miami for hosting the most Super Bowls (10).

“Whether the 2018 bid is successful or not, it should be strong and, if unsuccessful, be sure to leave a positive impression and bid for 2019,” Ganis said Friday. “If the Twin Cities proceeds in this manner, it is likely that a Super Bowl will be played in the new stadium in Minneapolis before the decade is out.”

Bagley said the Vikings and local steering committee have their chips on 2018.

“We think the year is 2018, and that is our agenda, and we’re pushing hard,” he said. “We have a great new stadium. That’s a huge point in our favor, but it’s a very competitive bid. We’ve got a good shot, but we’ve got to deliver a great bid and great package and answer the question: Why should the NFL come to Minneapolis-St. Paul in February 2018?”

Weather, of course, will be a factor during Super Bowl week.

Average Feb. 4 temperatures in the Twin Cities range from a high of 26 degrees to a low of 9, according to National Weather Service data. This year was much colder.

The average high and low between Jan. 29 and Feb. 4 was 19 and minus 4. Record temps range from 51 degrees (2005) to minus 10 (1907).

Last month, the NFL hosted its first open-air Super Bowl in a cold weather market, in East Rutherford, N.J., where it was a balmy 51 degrees at kickoff.

The Metrodome played host to Super Bowl XXVI on Jan. 26, 1992, when the Washington Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-24.

The next three Super Bowls are in Glendale, Ariz., Santa Clara, Calif., and Houston.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.