In a few weeks, the Super Bowl will be hosted by Minneapolis.
The most-watched American live event calls for massive logical and operational challenges.
But one possible outcome could put the NFL in a very difficult bind.
No NFL team has played the Super Bowl in its home stadium, but that very well could happen this year; the Minnesota Vikings are the current favorite to win the NFC, which could cause big issues for the league.
From Sports Illustrated:
In 2013, the Vikings went 5-10-1, started three different quarterbacks and had the worst-scoring defense in football. Five months after that season ended, the NFL announced that Super Bowl LII would be played in Minnesota’s new $1.1 billion stadium in February 2018.
The NFL can’t predict how good or bad the future host team will be years down the road, but in 51 tries they’ve been fortunate—a franchise has never played for a Super Bowl title at its home stadium. That luck may be running out this winter.
The Vikings are making history—and a headache—for the NFL as it preps for its 52nd iteration of the biggest annual sporting event in the country. No Super Bowl host has ever played a divisional-round game at home, but Minnesota will do just that on Jan. 14. To top it off, the Vikings have a chance at hosting the NFC title game should top-seeded Philadelphia lose the same weekend.
Even after considering the obstacles of moving around the Vikings to begin Super Bowl prep at U.S. Bank Stadium, there’s the very realistic hurdle of seeing another first: What if the Vikings are in Super Bowl LII?
Usually, as soon as the regular season ends, the league will go to the stadium hosting the Super Bowl to start preparations. So what exactly needs to happen in the Super Bowl host stadium before the big game?
Booths for international broadcasters will need to be built out. So, too, will the auxiliary press box, usually in an upper-level corner of the stadium, which could impact ticket sales in a conference title game. Special lighting elements for the halftime show have to be installed and rigged. There will need to be locker room setups and buildouts for the large press conference areas.
Then consider the exterior of the stadium. The league must build out the security perimeter around U.S. Bank Stadium that will likely absorb hundreds of parking spots as well as making room for the additional television trucks needed to broadcast a playoff game.
But the elephant in the room is the one the league has never had to address—home-field advantage. Twice before the league has hosted a Super Bowl at a stadium located close to one of its participants, but never anything like this. The 1979 Los Angeles Rams lost Super Bowl XIV to the Steelers at the Rose Bowl, just 15 miles from L.A. Memorial Coliseum. And the 1984 49ers won Super Bowl XIX against the Dolphins at Stanford Stadium, 30 miles from Candlestick Park.
Some hurdles were easy. The host team usually gets 15% of the tickets, but the NFL split that up between both teams. Both the Rams and 49ers, after initially saying they would stay at home rather than a hotel, were in their hotels by Wednesday of Super Bowl week, Steeg says. But the league also blocks out hotel rooms for visiting fans, and in Super Bowl XIV, Steeg says “we lied like hell” in advertising and marketing to convince Steelers fans that Irvine was close to Pasadena. In reality the two cities are 55 miles apart but hey, the league had hotels they had to get sold.
Then there’s the question of competitive (dis)advantages. In Super Bowl XIX, the two practice facilities were at Candlestick and Oakland Coliseum. Bill Walsh opted to stay at home and the league allowed it. The Rams also practiced at home during the team’s Super Bowl week.
For Super Bowl LII, the NFC champion is assigned to practice at the University of Minnesota’s indoor facilities, while the AFC winners will be at the Vikings’ Winter Park facility. But should the Vikings reach Super Bowl LII, that will flip, allowing Minnesota to practice at its home facility.
The NFL goes to great lengths to provide equity for the Super Bowl, but that could prove to be impossible in this case.
The Vikings would have extreme familiarity with the city, the practice facility, and the stadium. Plus it stands to reason that Vikings fans would be more motivated to pay exorbitant ticket prices to pack the stadium with purple jerseys.
Though league officials would never admit it, they’re probably secretly hoping the Vikings get eliminated from contention as soon as possible.