The last time Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl was in 1992. That’s the same year construction began on Mall of America. The center’s executives were relegated to watch the game, which was played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, from the sidelines.

Now, 26 years later, the 5.6 million-square-foot Mall of America is the hub of entertainment for Super Bowl 52 activities.

With the U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played, a 15-minute car drive away, the country’s biggest shopping-cum-entertainment center — seven Yankee Stadiums could fit inside the building – is a logical nerve center. Mall of America has a 7-acre amusement park, 530 stores on three levels, and gets 40 million visitors annually,

A signature event of Super Bowl week is the fan gallery, previously known as media row. More than 5,800 members of the media have descended on the mall, including reporters, editors, camera and sound operators.

“We have a behind-the-scenes work area,” said Jill Renslow, senior vice president of business development and marketing at MOA, who is a member of the Super Bowl 52 Steering Committee. “About 150 media outlets are set to be out in the fan gallery, where shoppers and fans can see broadcasters interviewing their favorite players.”

A disparate roster of VIPs is expected to turn up at Mall of America this weekend, including Terry Bradshaw, Phil Sims, Chris Carter, Deion Sanders, Dan Marino, Doug Flutie, Jenny McCarthy and R&B performers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

The 10-day celebration around the Super Bowl started to build last weekend, a spokesman said. “As we go toward Super Bowl Sunday weekend, we’ll have record-breaking days.”

“We’re already seeing an increase in traffic this week,” Renslow said. “During the early part of the week we saw a lot of local traffic. Now, out-of-town guests are coming in. We’re expecting similar traffic to what we saw during the holiday season.”

About 50 retailers have “popped-up” with special shops supporting the Super Bowl. There are also in-store events with appearances by NFL players planned at Nike, Under Armour, Microsoft and Best Buy. 

Macy’s Inc. transformed the entire second floor of its Mall of America store to feature NFL merchandise exclusively, much of which can be customized. Virtual reality gaming, an appearance by Randall McDaniel and a prize wheel are among the diversions on Friday. On Saturday, Adrian Peterson is expected to stop by, there’s a culinary council tailgate event, and on Sunday, an airbrush tattoo station will be operating.

An NFL pop-up shop selling the official merchandise of game 52 opened during the holiday season and continued to operate in anticipation of the Super Bowl.

The popularity of the Vikings Locker Room, the official pro shop of the Minnesota Vikings, remains in question given their crushing 37 to 7 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship, which cost them the opportunity of playing on their home field. Viking hats with blond braids and ale horns may go at fire sale prices.

Food at Mall of America is in the zone, with New England clam chowder, in honor of the Patriots, served at Bubba Gump; Philly Cheese Steak at Great Steak & Co.; Tater Tot Hotdish, served in a cast iron skillet at Cowboy Jacks, and Macarons by Maddie Lou’s decorated with team logos. There’s even a special sauce at Buffalo Wild Wings, crafted by NFL players.

Nickelodeon Universe has been a hot spot for private parties this week, the spokesman said, adding, “We’re getting ready for more parties this weekend.”

“There are a lot of elements that will impact Mall of America, not only financially, but seeing fans enjoying the mall, and Minneapolis as a whole,” Renslow said. “It’s allowing us to showcase what we have here. It’s an awesome platform to show the world who we are. We host 400 events a year. This has been the grandest event by far.”

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