January 22, 2016
I’m writing from a hotel at San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center, where we just finished a few excellent activations for Heineken’s Cities campaign, which is supporting the re-lighting of The Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge. It’s been a whirlwind weekend of running across town, engaging fans and bringing public art to the people of the Bay Area.
But that’s not the biggest thing happening in the Bay Area right now — not by a long shot. That honor belongs to Super Bowl 50, which has taken over nearly the entirety of downtown San Francisco for weeks of construction, street closures, new sights and one-of-a-kind attractions — the center of which is Super Bowl City, which occupies prime real estate across the Embarcadero from the waterfront. Over the past five days, I’ve seen the thing grow from a few metal crowd barriers to a sprawling complex of stages, entertainment, broadcast facilities and showcase venues, and the biggest stuff is yet to come.
Dozens of locals have told me, “There are going to be a million people coming to San Francisco in two weeks.” That’s for a football game that’s taking place at Levi’s Stadium, an hour south of downtown — and people in the street have an excited, if nervous, look. That got me thinking: Is Minnesota ready for our moment, even two years away?
As someone who considers a low-attendance Twins game a grave annoyance traffic-wise, I’m not looking forward to nearly a month of sustained madness once January 2018 rolls around. But even my hardened, sports-illiterate heart is a little excited about what we’re going to do once we’re in the national spotlight.
All of our dining and nightlife will finally get wider recognition beyond an in-the-know foodie crowd. Part of the tenacious self-defeating Midwestern inferiority complex is knowing that, while your city offers food and drink and shows that can compete with your New Yorks and San Franciscos, no one’s ever going to recognize it enough for your liking. Thankfully, literally thousands of writers, reporters and broadcast journalists will be descending on the Twin Cities, and hopefully they’ll hit the North Loop or Eat Street or Central Avenue or Lowertown for a mind-expanding meal. I, for one, would love to see Karta Thai written up in the Times.
I’m going to make about $27 million Airbnbing my house out, and you should too. From what I can see — and I’m just a casual user, not an expert — Minneapolis’s Airbnb market is underdeveloped compared to some of the world’s most popular cities. We don’t have the ten-million-dollar downtown condos or the $600,000 one-bedroom houses 45 minutes away. Even so, a million visitors means you can charge big money for your reasonably accessible and clean home — to the tune of $300 a night for a single bedroom, or $10,000 a night (gulp) for a penthouse. Mark your calendars: I will be renting out my house and flying somewhere far away.
Who will eclipse the music monoculture enough to headline the halftime show? I wish there were more artists who could come out and just rip all 12 minutes of the halftime show, but performers with a draw big enough are few and far between. That’s even before you get into the question of whether or not they’re even worth watching. Some — Springsteen, Prince, Michael Jackson in 1992 — can handle it, and others can’t. The fallback, of course, is the old halftime medley show, which I don’t think has ever satisfied anyone. I’d kill for another Prince halftime (and think about that Paisley Park afterparty), but who else will reach that level within the next two years? My money’s on Adele, Drake or Hologram Tupac. Maybe the producers will put together “A Very EDM Halftime” for all the ravers in the audience.
All those people who said they want to visit Minneapolis will get the chance — and promptly freeze. Today in San Francisco it was 55 degrees and sunny, and people were in parkas, beanie hats and scarves galore. When your average football fan flies in for Super Bowl 52 — especially those from sunnier, warmer, football-game-winning cities — he or she will be greeted by a blast of ice and a very early sunset. They’ll get to see one of the best cities in the world, and they’ll need to buy a lot of emergency cold-weather gear. If you set up a kiosk near U.S. Bank Stadium selling hats or gloves or snowmobiling suits, you’ll make a fortune.
All joking aside: Seeing how San Francisco has opened itself up to the country has me eager to see what the Twin Cities can do in just a couple years. What are your Super Bowl predictions?