The volunteer greeters of this enthusiastic Super Bowl city welcome visitors at the airport with a smile, and that feels pleasant, and inviting and, yes, warm. Then you go outside.
And it’s two below.
And the wind-swept “feels like” temperature is minus 22.
And on the shuttle ride from the airport to a hotel, I tell the driver how this is a nice change for someone from South Florida before he responds, “Yeah, for an hour, maybe.” Then he recalls the good old days when the Minnesota Vikings played outdoors and “we wore beaver coats and brought a flask of whiskey to the game to keep warm.”
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This trip to the “Bold North,” as the hosts of Super Bowl 52 are calling their region, begins with the feeling that somebody mistyped the B instead of hitting the C:
“It’s interesting, but we look at Minnesota as a one-off,” said Rodney Barreto, the chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee. “That was a deal cut when they built the new stadium. I was in Detroit when the Super Bowl was there, and I went out to Taste of the NFL with the driver and got lost in a snowstorm. We got to the event when it was over. Games in places like that are one-offers.”
The NFL long ago stopped hosting its biggest event exclusively in places like Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego and even New Orleans merely because of their resort or vacation feel. The league has opened the event to places like New York City, Detroit and, yes, Minneapolis when those communities build state-of-the-art stadiums for their teams.
And so here we are in the Cold, rather, Bold North.
A South Florida contingent is here. About a dozen Miami Dolphins coaches and players landed Thursday morning. They won’t go to the game, but they will take part in clinics, social functions and other events. Barreto brought about 10 of his host committee members to Minny, as well.
“We’ll have a behind-the-scenes tour of everything that’s going on with the Super Bowl in Minnesota,” Barreto said. “We’ll take notice of what they do at the airport. We’ll look at their volunteer program. … We’ll meet with other counterparts that are running Super Bowls. We’re meeting with representatives from Atlanta, which has it before us, and Tampa, which has it after us.
“What’s great about this trip is we learn from every city we go to. ‘Hey, let’s try that.’ Obviously, snow-removal trucks aren’t applicable to us but would have been applicable to [Dallas] when they had their snowstorm. You always learn from these things.”
And two years from now, it will once again be South Florida’s turn to host a Super Bowl — for a record 11th time.
South Florida’s 2020 Super Bowl will be played in a year the NFL is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and the week already promises sizzle.
“We’re going to do a big party in downtown Miami from the Intercontinental Hotel to the Pérez Art Museum,” Barreto said. “The majority of events will be at Bayfront Park from Bayside to the Intercontinental. We’re going to use the waterfront. We’re going to have concerts. We’ll try to build a temporary marina to bring big boats in.
“We anticipate north of 50,000 people who come into town who don’t go to the game. They’re here for the parties. This is corporate America at its best.”
The last time the event was in town was 2010. And when that game was over, it was clear that if a new stadium wasn’t built, we weren’t getting another game. Stephen Ross, in his most laudable move as Dolphins owner, stepped up and refurbished what is now Hard Rock Stadium, and that has become a destination facility.
Barreto’s job is to remind the NFL that Miami is again a hot destination city for the big game.
“The big smile on my face is because I say to a lot of people, it’s not about the game, it’s about the business it brings to our community,” Barreto said. “It’s about the eyes it puts on our town. A 30-second commercial on Super Bowl Sunday is going for $5 million. You know how many 30-second spots we’ll get for Miami during all the broadcasts in a week?
“We’ll have over $100 million in free advertising giving positive P.R. to our community. So the pride is in showing off our city to the world. It’s all the business that the people that live and work in Miami, Broward and Palm Beach will derive out of this. This is what it’s all about.”
The next Super Bowl we host will signal something of a departure from recent games because it will be Miami-centric. Unlike past games that spread hotel and event locations to Broward and Palm Beach counties, the weeklong lead-in to the ’20 game will be centered in downtown Miami and Miami Beach.
The media center will be at the new Miami Beach Convention Center. The NFL experience will probably be in Miami Beach also.
Barreto is careful to add that Broward and Palm Beach counties will benefit from the Super Bowl’s economic impact. But Miami-Dade made concessions to Ross so he could refurbish his stadium and in return for those was centering the event in Miami-Dade.
“Some people will want to stay up north and some will want to be right where the action is,” Barreto said.
And where’s the action going to be?
“Right in downtown Miami,” he said.
But just as the Bold North is worried about a blizzard or other issues tripping up their week of events, Barreto must also have worries, right?
“No concerns,” he said confidently. “We feel we’ve done our homework well. We’ve had a long time to prepare. We were selected two years ago, so we’ve had ample time to put together a plan of action. No concerns.”
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero