Two years ago, the Minnesota State Legislature and the city of Minneapolis were ready to walk away from a plan to provide approximately $500 million to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to pay more than half the costs a new stadium. It took a veiled threat to move the team to Los Angeles and a dramatic last-minute lobbying campaign from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but the will of a few people prevailed. The Vikings got their stadium and eventually the 2018 Super Bowl. Now, the NFL has a few demands of its own, 153 pages worth of them.
Minneapolis and the two other finalists for the 2018 Super Bowl were presented a list of demands by the NFL prior to voting on which city would get the big game, a list the Minneapolis Star Tribune was able to get a copy of along with confirmation that the city agreed to meet a "majority" of the league's demands.
Ranging from police escorts to billboards, the NFL's requirements turn the city into one giant green room for league executives and billionaire team owners.
Super Bowl LII
What the NFL wants
- Free police escorts for team owners
- Use of Presidential suites at the city's top hotels at no-cost
- 35,000 free parking spaces
- All revenue from ticket sales to the game
- Free curbside parking at the NFL House, a "high-end, exclusive drop-in hospitality facility for our most valued and influential guests to meet, unwind, network and conduct business."
- Local police dedicated to anti-counterfeit enforcement, provided at no cost
- Installation of ATM machines at the stadium that accept NFL preferred credit and debit cards, along with the removal of ATMs that "conflict with preferred payment services."
- Two top quality bowling venues for an NFL celebrity bowling event
- Portable cell phone towers
- Free promotional space from local newspapers and radio stations for the "NFL Experience" in the month before the game
- Creation of "clean zones" around the stadium and the hotel for NFL execs that prevent "certain activities" as well as suspend new and existing permits for those activities
- Free access to three top golf courses in the months before the game
- Exemption from state, county and municipal taxes
A member of the Minneapolis host committee told the Star Tribune that the group had agreed to most of the demands. They did not specify which demands.
An official with the airport told the paper that they did not agree with a request for the NFL to select vendors to sell official Super Bowl merchandise and place additional kiosks in the facility.
"We haven't seen the bid, so we don't know what was agreed to," the Mayor's office said in a statement to the Star Tribune. The public may never know exactly what the committee agreed to give the NFL in exchange for the game. An attorney with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority said that state law protects the privacy of the city's agreement with the league. Requests and documentation from entities wanting to use sports facilities, along with the response from the authority, can be kept private. The information can only be made public when the event takes place or five years after the agreement to reserve the facility.
The Minneapolis City Council president defended the process in the article, citing the competitive nature of the bidding process and the economic impact of hosting the game. It's the same argument the NFL used to woo legislators who had briefly abandoned plans to help fund the new Vikings stadium in May 2012. However, research says those claims don't measure up to the lofty promises from the league.
Why the NFL always wins
Is Pete Carroll going to change the NFL with the world champion Seattle Seahawks? Maybe, maybe not. The NFL is big and getting bigger, and there may not be a thing anyone can do about it.
Host committees and the NFL promise as much as $600 million in economic benefits when the Super Bowl comes to town. Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College, says the actual benefit ranges from $30 million to $90 million. In another estimate, Webster University economics professor Pat Rishe told Bloomberg that the benefit realized from the 2011 Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium was between $125 and $174 million, a bigger number than Baade's but still far off the mark from what bowl benefactors claim.
Why the disparity between promised and actual economic benefits? One reason are the hidden costs to city, stemming in part from the league's list of requests. The Super Bowl also elbows out other events that could take place during that time.
The NFL is perhaps the most profitable of any professional sport in America thanks to its tremendous, seemingly inexhaustible popularity. The league brings in roughly $7 billion a year from national television deals. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is worth an estimated $1.3 billion. The league paid Commissioner Roger Goodell a $35.1 million salary in 2013.
The league gets a generous helping hand from government at all levels. Since 1997, the league's teams have received more than $5 billion in taxpayer money for building and renovating stadiums and an antitrust exemption allows the NFL to operate as a monopoly. Its nonprofit status saves the league millions in taxes.
Given the NFL's special treatment, what's a few bowling alleys, luxury hotel rooms and police escorts?