Super Bowl Casting Big Shadow Over Other Sporting Events That Week

February 19, 2018 01:27 PM

The annual Girls Cabin Fever Classic hosted by the Osseo-Maple Grove Youth Hockey Association is typically held the first weekend in February

So when it came time to schedule this year's event, that's where it was placed on the calendar.

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At first, organizers didn't think twice about the timing.

"In hindsight," association president Rob Borsch said. "I wish we had."

That's because another sporting event is being held in the Twin Cities that weekend.

Super Bowl LII, scheduled for Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium, has cast a fairly broad shadow when it comes to planning other activities in the metro area around that time.

Kristen Montag, the senior public relations and communications manager for the Meet Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association, said via email that because hotels don't provide reports on occupancy to her group in real time, she could not provide the exact percentage when it comes to how many rooms have been booked.

RELATED: Super Bowl Means Break From Classes

However, she said Meet Minneapolis has been telling people hotels in both downtown Minneapolis and further out have some availability the weekend of Jan. 26-28, less availability from Jan. 29-31 and almost none from Feb. 1-4.

That matches what Borsch and his association discovered.

"A month or two later, we realized there just weren't any hotels," Borsch said. "Fortunately, we draw a lot of teams from the metro area, but we had eight teams from out-of-town that signed up in a 32-team field; and the closest we could have gotten them was maybe St. Cloud."

He added, "For one team, you're talking about needing 15 or 16 rooms. It quickly became clear that was going to be impossible."

Borsch said the association refunded the entry fees for those eight teams and was able to find eight others locally to take their place. The tournament will go on as scheduled, while taking other factors created by the Super Bowl into consideration.

"We're looking at how we schedule the games to make sure we do it the right way," he said. "We have to take into account traffic and other considerations that weekend."

Borsch and his group are not alone. From the youth to the professional sports ranks, crowds, road closures, facility needs and other factors surrounding the big game have had to be considered when deciding what and when to schedule. 

Or what or when not to.

Wolves, Wild have home games

The NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves have two home games that week - a Thursday night game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks and a matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday night, the day before the big game.

Brad Ruiter, the team's vice president of communications, said via email the NBA has scheduled home games in markets hosting the Super Bowl in the past, including last year in Houston. 

He said the team had no issues with that, but he'd advise fans coming to Target Center for those games to allow themselves plenty of time because of possible traffic and parking issues in downtown Minneapolis - factors not in the team's control.

Neither the Bucks nor Pelicans will be forced into finding accommodations in Brainerd. Ruiter said road teams typically book their own lodging well in advance of the season, and the NBA is able to jump in if needed. He said there have been no issues securing hotel rooms for either of the two games that week.

Across the river in St. Paul, where the Winter Carnival will also be going on, the NHL's Minnesota Wild have just one home game scheduled that week - a nationally-televised matchup against the Las Vegas Knights on Friday at Xcel Energy Center.

Aaron Sickman, the team's media relations director, said NBC - the league's broadcast partner and the network that will carry the Super Bowl - was excited to have the Wild at home that weekend. The game will be shown on cable's NBC Sports Network.

"We knew the NFL wanted to use our building for a couple of events that week, so we were limited somewhat when it came to scheduling home dates," Sickman said.

"But NBC is doing the Super Bowl, and they wanted us to have a home game that week," he said. "They'll have crews here already, and they'll be able to use some of those resources Friday night to highlight hockey and show what's going on around town when it comes to the Super Bowl."

Sickman said Super Bowl week presents a great opportunity for the team to highlight Xcel Energy Center to an even wider audience than usual.

"Fans from around the world will be in the Twin Cities that week," he said. "That gives us the chance to really show off our building. It's a great opportunity for us."

All quiet at U of M

In the college ranks, the Super Bowl has also loomed large as a scheduling consideration.

A number of Super Bowl-related events are scheduled for the week leading up to the game on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Jake Ricker, an associate athletic communications director at the university, said every Gophers athletic team is either off or on the road that weekend - with one exception.

"That was absolutely by design," Ricker said. "We wanted to get out in front of things. We've known the Super Bowl was going to be here for awhile, so we started preparing for it about a year-and-a-half ago with the Big Ten. The conference, and the other schools, were very sympathetic when it came to helping us deal with the challenges of having a Super Bowl in our market."

He added, "The women's gymnastics team, for example, needed some help from other Big Ten schools when it came to shuffling the schedule to make sure they could be on the road that week, and everyone was flexible. It was smooth sailing all the way through. Everybody was great about working with us."

The lone home event scheduled at the university that week is the Courtside Classic women's tennis tournament featuring the Gophers and three other teams at the Baseline Tennis Center on campus.

Ricker said the coaching staff was able to work with the other three teams to make sure they secured hotel accommodations.

Meanwhile, in the small college ranks, the Super Bowl meant a scheduled MIAC men's hockey series in which Concordia-Moorhead was scheduled to play at Hamline had to be moved to earlier in the season. The Cobbers found securing hotel rooms too expensive or difficult Super Bowl weekend.

The two teams played Dec. 8-9 in St. Paul.

North Central in shadow of big game ... literally

Perhaps no school is facing a bigger impact than North Central. The member of the Division III Upper Midwest Athletic Conference is located in downtown Minneapolis, just blocks away from U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee will use some of the school's facilities for a variety of support functions, and Nancy Zugschwert, North Central's director of communications, said classes will not be in session that week.

"We just came to the conclusion that doing business as usual that week would be unpredictable, if not impractical," she said.

The school's men's and women's basketball teams were already scheduled to be on the road Wednesday and Saturday of Super Bowl week.

But Athletic Director Greg Johnson worked with Crown College to flip home dates, allowing for the teams to play on the road at Crown College on Saturday, Jan. 27, as well.

While teams in spring sports have already started practicing, they will not hold practices that week. The basketball teams will hold practices at Northwestern in Roseville.

Johnson himself though will not be in the office.

"There's basically a list of essential and non-essential personnel," he said. "And if it's not considered essential you be on campus that week, we've all been encouraged to work from home or at a library."

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