Minneapolis Skyways Teem with Traffic, Volunteers as Game Draws Near

The skyway connection between the Wells Fargo Center and the Northstar Center. Before it was demolished and rebuilt, that connection was the city's first, built in 1962. Photo: KSTP/Mike Oakes
The skyway connection between the Wells Fargo Center and the Northstar Center. Before it was demolished and rebuilt, that connection was the city's first, built in 1962.

February 01, 2018 10:49 PM

Zach Simon and Will Marcus, both of New York, hardly slowed their brisk pace as they approached a couple of Crew 52 volunteers in the skyway at Gaviidae Common Thursday.

“We’re headed toward the stadium?” Simon asked one of the volunteers, who come equipped with maps, Minnesota knowledge and – not surprisingly – a quick smile and eagerness to help.


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“Yes you are,” the Crew 52 volunteer responded quickly. “Would you like a map?”

Simon declined, but Marcus, dressed appropriately for the outdoor temperatures, grabbed one, and the two quickened their pace. They said they opted for the climate-controlled skyway system rather than enduring the outside temperature of 5 degrees Thursday afternoon.

The pair, in town for Super Bowl LII on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, were meeting people on the eastern edge of downtown at 4:30 p.m.

It was 4:15.

Neither has a stake in the big game, but both are sports fans, and work in the sports entertainment industry in Manhattan. And neither had ever been in a skyway system before.

Asked their impression of the interconnected system, Simon said, “I don’t know, I’d rather be down there,” pointing to Marquette Avenue below as they made the connection between the Wells Fargo Center and the Northstar Center, which at one point was the first skyway connection built in the city in 1962.

It was torn down in 1982 and rebuilt with the Norwest Center.

“But not if it’s 10 degrees or less,” Simon said. “But it does seem to take longer than it would if we were on the street.”

Simon and Marcus were en route to the Radisson Red Hotel near U.S. Bank Stadium, and they made their destination – with just one wrong turn and backtrack – about seven minutes later.   

The second-story connections they used were part of 9.5 miles of Minneapolis skyway, the largest such system in the world. Meet Minneapolis, the city’s tourism arm, said the initial connection in 1962 became so popular that new skyways began cropping up all over, eventually finding an epicenter with the construction in 1974 of the IDS Center, the first building with a skyway outlet in all four directions.

A number of navigation apps have popped up in recent months, including Skyway Finder and SkyWay Maps, which provide indoor GPS mapping for those needing help finding their way.

The majority of the system will remain open each day later than usual – until midnight – in the runup to the Super Bowl to accommodate the increase in visitor traffic.

And to help those visitors along are the plentiful and dutiful Crew 52 volunteers, a cadre of Minnesotans eager to share their knowledge and act as de facto ambassadors to travelers descending on Minneapolis from across the world.

A Super Bowl Host Committee spokesman said that at any given time this week, there are more than 100 Crew 52 volunteers in the skyways, and that more than 1,000 will be deployed over the 10 days leading to the Super Bowl.

As the business day was winding down Thursday, the skyway traffic was increasing, especially in the buildings nearest Nicollet Avenue, where Super Bowl LIVE has taken place all week a level below the skyways.

“We’ve seen a lot of Eagles fans,” said Beth Rosendahl, a Crew 52 member from Plymouth, from the post she shared Thursday evening on the second floor of the former Dayton’s building – now the Dayton’s Project.

“A lot of people looking for hotels, restaurants, the Kitten Bowl (just down the hall to the south).”

Her Crew 52 partner, Danielle Seraphine, of Lino Lakes, drew a comparison from her previous volunteer shift last Saturday.

“A lot more visitors (Thursday night),” she said. “We’re seeing a lot more Eagles fans, a couple Patriots fans here and there, everybody is excited and in really good moods, which is fun.

“A lot of people are asking,’ Can I get there without going outside?’ which is pretty typical. You’d expect that. We’re seeing a lot of people actually dressed warmly, which is surprising to me. They came prepared. A lot of fur.”

Rosendahl and Seraphine said they could tell which visitors were out-of-towners by what they wore: if they were bundled up in the skyway, they weren’t from here.

Not 15 feet to the south, another pair of Crew 52 volunteers gave directions where the IDS Building meets the Dayton’s Project. Volunteer Patrick Morgan, of Minnetonka, said an organizer told him they expected perhaps 20 percent of skyway volunteers to no-show over the course of the week, but had been pleasantly surprised when the number was closer to 5 percent.

The result Thursday evening was a skyway system full of almost as many purple- and blue-clad volunteers as general public. And most visitors seemed happy the volunteers were there.

Said one, as she approached two volunteers in the Northstar Center: “I just want to know if I’m going the right way to the Hotel Minneapolis.” (She was.)

Most of the volunteers, who work in pairs, had not met their partners before their shifts started. And most seemed to develop fast friendships in the light-hearted and upbeat Super Bowl atmosphere.

That was the case for Lora Nelson, of Maple Grove, and Brandy Anderson, who, when she said she was from New Richmond, Wisconsin, elicited a look of alarm from Nelson.

“Wait, are you a Packers fan?” she asked Anderson.


Said Nelson with a laugh: “Oh, good. I would’ve had to ask for another partner.”


Michael Oakes

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