As Super Bowl LII rapidly approaches, all eyes are trained on Minneapolis. The Twin Cities, like all good civic hosts when the world lands on your doorstep, is prepared. The economic and optic upside is a potential boon to the city and the 120-square block district that is home to U.S. Bank Stadium – a part of downtown whose appearance and vibe is vastly different than the last time Minneapolis hosted the NFL’s championship game in 1992.
A quarter century ago when Super Bowl XXVI was played at the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome, the neighborhood around the stadium, now known as East Town, was 25 percent asphalt and vacant lots dedicated to parking. Outside of Vikings and Twins games, a few concerts, off-season ice skating and assorted community events, the action inside the dome was the main attraction. To say the Metrodome and its surrounds were underutilized is an understatement.
Today, East Town is a thriving, year-round live/work community and urban entertainment destination. By 2025, downtown Minneapolis will have seen $2 billion in public and private investment poured into housing, mixed-use commercial projects, new public transit, and green space – an intentional, thoughtful and massive redevelopment with the HKS-designed U.S. Bank Stadium as an anchoring catalyst that is part of a larger, holistic vision. This urban renewal story is dubbed the Big Build, and sustained interest is high with $1 billion worth of construction permits issued in each of the last four years. Nearly two dozen projects are already complete or under construction.
From the outset of our collaboration with the Minneapolis Sports Facilities Authority in 2011, the stadium project’s focus wasn’t ever about a singular, crowning football game – or even exclusively about sports. Are we thrilled and proud that U.S. Bank Stadium is hosting one of the world’s biggest spectacles? You bet we are. But the backstory here is the facility we designed serves a broader purpose in the lives of Minnesotans, all year long.
A Year-Round Destination
We wanted the stadium’s design to serve as an iconic symbol, reflecting and responding to its geography and climate, the history and quality of its civic structures and continue the community’s trend toward progressive, modern expression. The result is a place that has generated an immense amount of attention, but also significant local pride.
A critical design requirement called for extended public use of the stadium. We had to create a flexible, multiuse facility that could support as many different types of sports and events as possible. To achieve that objective, we worked with Irwin Seating, the MSFA and the Vikings to create an extremely unique and sturdy retractable seating system. On the stadium’s north sideline, 34 rows of seating can be completely retracted to create an event or playing surface that accommodates nearly any activity.
Since its opening in July 2016, U.S. Bank Stadium has hosted hundreds of high school and college baseball games. In fact, in the first six months the venue played host to more than 300 non-Vikings events, leading to significant growth in event, catering and tour revenue for the publicly-owned building and the state of Minnesota.
And with 66,200 seats and six club spaces, the venue’s versatility means it can go big or more intimate. In addition to the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, U.S. Bank Stadium will host the 2019 NCAA Final Four, the ESPN X Games (2017 and 2018) and Taylor Swift will appear in concert later this summer. Conventions and festivals aren’t restricted to the stadium interior – there are myriad exterior spaces and four acres of green space, called The Commons, where events like trade shows can take advantage of the stadium’s indoor-outdoor qualities and views to downtown. The club spaces are available on non-game days for private events, from corporate meetings to proms and weddings.
Private events were non-existent in the Metrodome – these new event spaces are attracting local, national and international event planners and promoters, adding a new revenue stream that also benefits local businesses and hoteliers. Economic activity from the new stadium and the Vikings operation is generating over $26 million per year in tax revenue and more than $145 million in direct spending by Vikings fans within Minnesota.
The stadium project advanced the city’s ambitious goal to make a profound impact beyond the region’s economy relating to commerce and job growth. Its design considered multiple stakeholders in addition to the stadium’s main tenant, the Vikings and their fanbase – the community, the earth, its investors and the design and construction teams – they all played a strategic role and had a significant stake in the outcome.
Collectively, we wanted to build the best multi-purpose stadium in the country while ensuring that Minnesota-based companies and the local people were front and center in the process and long-term workforce.
More than 300 Minnesota businesses worked on U.S. Bank Stadium, and nearly 90 percent of the contract dollars stayed with Minnesota companies. Nearly four million construction work hours were performed by nearly 8,000 workers, 85% of which were Minnesotans. The project also exceeded equity hiring goals set by the MSFA and the Vikings for women, minorities and veterans on construction contracting and stadium workforce employment. The project was completed ahead of schedule, and the MSFA has hired an ongoing workforce of full- and part-time staff of about 4,500 employees – 3,200 are there on Vikings game days.
Accessibility & Connectivity
U.S. Bank Stadium is among the most accessible urban stadium experiences in the country, linking light rail, pedestrian and cycling options to the venue. The facility is directly connected to the Minneapolis skyway system, giving fans the ability to access the stadium via 8.5 miles of enclosed, climate-controlled, above-ground walkways from nearly any point in the downtown core. About 30% of event goers access the light rail system, with drop off located right outside the stadium’s front doors; the stadium is the central stop between two main light rail lines serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and St. Paul.
A 30-foot-wide pedestrian bridge, financed by the Vikings and Metro Transit, extends from the light rail platform over the tracks and a city street directly to the stadium’s main plaza. For drivers, more than 12,000 parking spaces in a mix of public and private parking structures are located within a 15-minute walk of the stadium.
The stadium also plays a role in the city’s prioritization of environmental stewardship. The facility’s design maximizes the use of natural light, LED technology and water saving strategies and recently achieved LEED Gold certification by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The design also added nearly 37,000 square feet of new green space to downtown Minneapolis. That’s roughly equivalent to 20 community playgrounds.
Minneapolis officials have their sights set on revitalizing the Mississippi riverfront to connect residents and visitors to the water and its surrounding landscape. Underutilized greenway is being restructured to serve as an environmental corridor that links to trails and other destinations. Additionally, roadways are being renovated to improve the pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfare.
As designers, nothing is more gratifying to us than enhancing the quality of life and helping people flourish in the place they call home. So as the world descends on the North Star State in a few short weeks for the Super Bowl, Minnesotans have much to show off, though Midwesterners are generally humble by nature. The only thing they’d likely be inclined to crow about is if their beloved hometown Vikings advance through the playoffs to the title match up. A Super Bowl has never been played by the team whose city is hosting the game – now that would be something special.