Yes, it's OK to start wondering, "What if?"
What if the Minnesota Vikings did it, becoming the first NFL team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium? For fans, the stuff of dreams. For others, the stuff of plans.
Take Steve Cramer.
The president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, Cramer was considering this late last week. Is he wondering what it would be like? Of course. Can he sense the growing excitement around the team? Certainly. Is he starting to wonder how Minneapolis — which promises to be the center of the sporting universe in the week leading up to the Feb. 4 game — would be affected?
"Well," Cramer said before the Vikings' Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit, "if they win on Thursday, I'm going to start taking this pretty darned seriously."
OK, then. The Vikings beat Detroit, improving to 9-2 and making themselves a real postseason threat. Yes, things just got serious.
It's never been done before, of course. Historically speaking, the host team has rarely even had a winning season. No team has ever even played in a conference championship with a chance to advance to a home Super Bowl.
There are two asterisks here.
On Jan. 20, 1980 the Los Angeles Rams — who then played at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum — lost to Pittsburgh 31-19 in the Rose Bowl. Five years later, on Jan. 20, 1985, the San Francisco 49ers won their second Super Bowl in four years, beating the Miami Dolphins 38-16 at Stanford Stadium.
Former University of Minnesota great Keith Fahnhorst was a starting tackle on that 49ers team. He remembers, as the 49ers racked up win after win, that everyone was thinking about the possibility of playing in their home market. But nobody wanted to jinx anything by talking about it.
"But it was a special season," Fahnhorst said. "The game is so huge now, it gets a little carried away. But even back then, it was huge to have it there. There was so much excitement, anticipation. Stanford was an old stadium, but it was still cool to have it there."
For Fahnhorst it was extra special. The day before the game the third of his three daughters, Courtney, was born in a hospital just down the road from the stadium.
Dollars rolling in
The idea of making history is tantalizing.
"From a business standpoint, this is going to be a big corporate gathering," Cramer said. "That will occur no matter what teams are in the event. What would change would be the increased excitement of the local fan base. It would put everything on steroids, in terms of the local reaction. It would be so much more than a game now."
Talking with folks both involved in the preparation for Super Bowl week and on the periphery, the consensus is that the corporate aspect of the event won't be altered. People who fly in later in the week, as the game nears? That won't change.
But what will likely change, should the Vikings be in the game, is an uptick in the events surrounding the Super Bowl and in the excitement of the local community. And, possibly, a big spike in what it will cost to get a ticket in the aftermarket should you be a Vikings fan wanting in.
"We're trying to make this not only a statewide event, but a regional event," said Andrea Mokros, vice president of communications and events for the Minnesota Super Bowl Committee. "This would expand our ability to do that. Vikings country extends into Iowa, the Dakotas. Having a Super Bowl within driving distance to a game would be huge."
Regional organizers in September estimated an economic impact of $400 million. How that would change should the Vikings make the game is unclear. But it could alter how that impact is felt.
For example, Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, said occupancy rates in hotels outside of the downtown core could be affected with one of the two fan bases not needing to travel. But there could be more money spent by local and regional fans coming to the Twin Cities for things like the NFL Experience at the convention center and Super Bowl Live on the Nicollet Mall. Super Bowl events are expected to draw perhaps 1 million fans. That number could grow if the Vikings manage to do what has never before been done.
"What might go down in terms of hotels would go up in merchandise," Mokros said. "It's all fluid."
You can bet a bunch of money will be spent on tickets.
By NFL rules, each Super Bowl team receives 17.5 percent of the tickets to the game. That means 35 percent of U.S. Bank Stadium's 66,655 capacity.
But the aftermarket figures to be hot if the Vikings, who would officially be the road team while the AFC representative would be the home team, make the game.
"The price would definitely spike," said Michael Nowakowski of Ticket King. "At least initially. When fans of one of the teams don't have to jump on a plane or get a hotel room, it allows them to spend more money on tickets. More people are willing or able to spend the thousands of dollars it might take."
The market is complex, Nowakowski said. How many tickets will become available? Might some people already holding tickets decide not to travel to a cold-weather destination? How many of the Vikings season ticket holders who get tickets to the game will be willing to sell them? He can see a market where tickets cost between $4,000 and $5,000.
"It would be a crazy, crazy time," Nowakowski said.
And so the Twin Cities will wait, and watch, as the Vikings make their bid to reach their fifth Super Bowl.
"Just to be a part of it would be great," Cramer said. "One of my best memories I have is of the Twins first World Series win (in 1987). I got to go to the game, but the best memory was just being a part of the crowd, the feeling of a local team having reached that pinnacle. It would be a similar feeling."
Said Mokros: "We would make history. And making history is nothing to scoff at."
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