Preparations for the 2018 Super Bowl, on many counts, began years ago — some, just about right after Minneapolis was announced as the site for the event.
An army of 10,000 volunteers, dubbed Crew 52, have been training for months, and local businesses, public safety agencies and more are bracing for an influx of football fans and other travelers.
Minneapolis may be the epicenter of Super Bowl-related events and side effects, but a few other metro locations are involved as well. Mall of America in Bloomington will serve as the starting point for an express light rail line directly to the stadium on game day, and Winter Park in Eden Prairie will be the practice site for the New England Patriots.
Even departments whose jurisdictions contain no site directly related to the game are responding to the festivities with full staffs and wary eyes.
The focal point of the Super Bowl is Minneapolis, but the big game probably wouldn’t make it to the Twin Cities if it weren’t for Bloomington.
Although Minneapolis gets much of the Super Bowl spotlight, Bloomington’s hotels are an important contribution to the area economy, helping provide thousands of rooms for the estimated 1 million visitors who will descend upon Minnesota in preparation for crowning a Super Bowl champion.
Bloomington’s Mall of America, a tourist destination in its own right, will serve as the temporary home for the NFL’s Super Bowl participants, as a result of the hotels attached to its north and south end. And the mall will serve as the home of Radio Row, the area where present and past NFL stars, as well as a cavalcade of celebrities, wade through a sea of talk radio stations vying for an interview for their listeners.
Hotels at capacity in the days leading up to the Super Bowl and crowds at Mall of America expected to rival the busiest holiday shopping days of the year will keep the Bloomington Police Department operating in high gear daily. Preparing for the city’s invasion by the NFL is a process that dates back more than a year, and requires a multi-faceted plan, according to Bloomington Deputy Chief Mike Hartley. Hartley is responsible for the oversight of the department’s operations during the Super Bowl. And for all the planning it has required, the first priority that was checked off the department’s to-do list was a rather routine one: Dedicate staffing to the city’s regular patrols, he said.
“We are not comprising any response times, any level of service,” he noted.
Planning for Super Bowl week required deviation from the norm, however. There will be no decrease in the department’s patrolling, but the hours officers work may not follow standard protocol. Some officers may work longer shifts during Super Bowl week, and days off during the work week may be shifted to provide as many officers as possible during the busiest days leading up to the Super Bowl, Hartley explained.
Beyond its day-to-day staffing needs, the police department will then provide officers for NFL-sanctioned events, team security at the hotels and team bus escorts to the stadium in downtown Minneapolis on game day. That may mean officers will be called to perform duties outside of their regular job assignments. Detectives, for example, may be on duty at the mall assisting with hotel security, Hartley noted.
The security needs exceed the staffing available through the Bloomington Police Department, so officers from other area departments who are available to work contractual overtime will be assisting in and around the mall, according to Hartley.
The National Guard will also assist with security at the mall, and visitors to the mall will notice the increased security measures inside and outside of the building. SWAT or National Guard vehicles may be parked outside of the mall, and access to the ring road around the mall will be restricted. Inside the mall, officers may be carrying equipment or weapons that they wouldn’t normally have at the ready, Hartley explained.
The increased security presence will be similar to steps that might be taken at an airport or at a major event such as New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The presence of the National Guard or the department’s SWAT team are intended to provide the most effective response necessary, should it be. “It’s not that we’re anticipating anything,” Hartley said.
The goal is to provide a safe, enjoyable experience for those who visit the mall, but officers working inside the mall are there to provide assistance to visitors and answer questions, he added.
Staffing above the department’s regular responsibilities at the mall will be compensated through the NFL and the Super Bowl’s host committee, according to Hartley. That’s not to say that the Super Bowl doesn’t come with an added cost to the department, but the impact should be minimal. “We are not expecting a significant impact on our 2018 police department budget to staff during the Super Bowl operational period,” he said.
Preparations for the Super Bowl began approximately 18 months ago with occasional meetings. Hartley and Police Chief Jeff Potts were among law enforcement officers who went to Texas last year to observe and shadow the law enforcement presence during the Houston Super Bowl.
With hotels at capacity, many of them will be hiring security personnel or off-duty police officers to minimize the chance of a disturbance in their building, according to Hartley. And, the Bloomington Police Department has officers assigned to the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, which is proactively working against prostitution and human trafficking during the Super Bowl, he explained.
Security planning for the Super Bowl has included the Minneapolis Police Department, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and the National Guard. Bloomington’s responsibilities do not extend to the events in Minneapolis, but two officers have been chosen to assist with stadium security during the game, Hartley noted.
Eden Prairie Police Department Captain Greb Weber outlined two areas of focus outside of the department’s usual work coming with the Super Bowl. The Eden Prairie Police Department will provide security surrounding Winter Park while the New England Patriots practice and will assist with expected increases in air traffic at Flying Cloud Airport.
But, Weber emphasized, the department will remain committed to providing the same level of public safety services as they do on any other day of the year.
“We want the community to know that this is a significant event, in terms of us working with Winter Park and working with the airport, but we also have a community of 60,000 that is accustomed to good quality law enforcement,” said Weber. “We believe that, with the plan we have in place, we’re going to be able to continue to operate and provide those services while sequestering a group of people to deal with the specific challenges at Flying Cloud and Winter Park.”
Weber noted that the department will be running with all hands on deck Jan. 29 to Feb. 5 — a total of 68 officers to divide between regular services and Super Bowl-related activities.
“By simply just not having any training or any vacation, we have a lot of staff that we can divide up or compartmentalize to handle different things,” said Weber. “It’s cleanest for us to differentiate into two different groups.”
Weber noted that, while the department will have a more noticeable presence around Winter Park and Flying Cloud Airport, efforts were being made to keep everything running as smoothly as possible. Closures on a few roads surrounding Winter Park for increased security were announced weeks ago, and Weber pointed out that only Patriots personnel would be able to access the property.
“There are plenty of opportunities Super Bowl week to have interaction with players at Mall of America or other venues, but Winter Park is not that place,” said Weber. “They’re there for business. They’re going to do their practicing and then get out of there.
“There are going to be detours, but we don’t want to slow people down too much,” continued Weber. “There are going to be closures, but we’ll work really hard to shrink that window down and minimize that disruption.”
As for the airport, police staff won’t be assisting with screening or any direct airport security. Instead, they’ll be on hand to help with any effects of anticipated increases in air traffic surrounding the big event.
“We’ll be watching the roads around the airport, making sure if we do have traffic backup, we can deal with that,” said Weber. “They’re going to be staging quite a few planes down there, so we’ll be making sure that we’ve got people keeping an eye on those. I think they’re anticipating 240 to 250 extra aircraft down there.”
Even with more planes landing and taking off, Weber said that the department was not anticipating a tremendous amount of congestion on the roads around the airport.
“The airport can only handle so much traffic in terms of planes taking off and landing, and they’re small enough planes that you’re not going to see an overabundance of people,” said Weber. “It shouldn’t be a major concern.”
All told, Weber stressed that the department was determined to keep the disruption, from a public safety perspective and otherwise, to a minimum.
“Yes, we do have some additional responsibilities because of the Super Bowl, but we’re not going to let them interfere with what we have to do to deliver police services to a community of 60,000 residents,” said Weber.
Those in Eden Prairie can keep track of road closures near Winter Park and other public safety goings-on at the Eden Prairie Police Department Facebook page.
The Edina Police Department is keenly aware of the influx on its way to the Twin Cities.
“There’s just going be a lot more people,” said Edina Police Lt. Dan Conboy, who is organizing his department’s efforts to assist other cities for 2018 Super Bowl events.
Much of the Edina Police Department’s Super Bowl preparation has revolved around sending officers to neighboring jurisdictions. For a 10-day period beginning Jan. 26, Edina made five officers available to Minneapolis, Conboy said.
“Any time in those 10 days they’re going to be assigned wherever Minneapolis needs them to be,” he explained. Conboy added that nine officers have been made available to Bloomington, where Mall of America and the many surrounding hotels make it a hotbed of Super Bowl activity.
Conboy stressed, however, that the officers will be off-duty with respect to their Edina jobs.
“We’re not taking officers off our street do that,” he said.
In fact, Conboy said, the main focus is to keep Edina well-fortified while it offers a helping hand.
“I think the thing we’re really doing at this point is making sure that we’re not giving all of our resources to Minneapolis and Bloomington, because they need a lot of help,” Conboy said.
There was one scheduled Super Bowl event in Edina that Conboy was aware of – a large, private, celebrity-attended event at a residence where police traffic control will be required.
While Super Bowl festivities aren’t centered around Edina, people can still plan on extra DWI enforcement. Edina has a dedicated DWI enforcement officer that doesn’t normally work Sundays, but he will be on duty this particular Sunday.
“I can guarantee that there are going to be plenty more officers from all agencies, not just working their own cities, but kind of working the whole metro area,” Conboy said.
Aside from being wary of drunk drivers, residents ought to use common sense to protect themselves amidst the population swell and hoopla, he said. For instance, people can deter thefts from vehicles by locking their doors and not leaving valuables in plain sight, he said.
Law enforcement is also keying on sex traffickers for the Super Bowl. Local and federal authorities will be dedicated to patrolling those types of crimes, according to Conboy. Their focus, he said, won’t just be hotels, but also the airport, clubs and bars – any area where large groups will congregate.
Edina Police aren’t the only ones taking extra precautions for the Super Bowl. Edina’s prominent medical community has also been getting ready.
“We’re staffing up,” said Pam Schultz, Fairview Southdale’s emergency management specialist.
Fairview Southdale has been planning for an uptick in admissions since September, according to Schultz.
Based on statistics from past Super Bowl host cities, Fairview is anticipating a 5-10 percent increase in patient volume metro-wide compared to the average, Schultz said.
“We are expecting some increase, but it’s hard to tell what that’s going to be from, if it’s Super Bowl-related or flu-related.”
With people arriving in town who aren’t prepared for winter conditions, hospitals manager won’t be surprised if they see more weather-related injuries – “slips, falls and maybe some frost bite,” Schultz said.
And then, there are the non-weather-related injuries to plan for, such as those resulting from over-imbibing in adult beverages.
“We’ve considered what the impact of that might be,” Schultz said.
The Richfield Police Department has joined a partnership with the Minneapolis Police Department, the NFL and the Super Bowl Host Committee to provide officers to work events for the 2018 Super Bowl.
The Metropolitan Council’s Joint Powers Agreement between the departments states that officers will work a 12-day operational period around the Super Bowl.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security rated the Super Bowl a SEAR 1 event (Special Event Assessment Rating), the highest security rating assigned to large-scale events, and Minneapolis Police Department (the lead agency in designated in this event), pooled officers from surrounding suburbs such as Richfield, Edina, Bloomington and Eden Prairie to help mitigate security coverage.
Richfield Police Chief Jay Henthorne said Richfield police officers began working Super Bowl events Jan. 26.
“We have officers in Bloomington and the Mall of America to help with the influx of visitors,” Henthorne said. “We have several officers assigned to media row, the NFL and Minneapolis.”
The 12-day operational period will have 16 Official Super Bowl events with more than 100 private events occurring within the Twin Cities. The largest of the Super Bowl events will occur in Minneapolis, including Super Bowl Live, Super Bowl Experience and the game itself. In April 2017, the Metropolitan City Council forecasted an influx of more than 1 million individuals participating in Super Bowl-related events.
Henthorne said officers have been training in preparation for the Super Bowl events.
“We are constantly training,” Henthorne said. “We’ve been training with other departments participating in Super Bowl-related events.”
Minneapolis’ Joint Information Center stated that traffic will be directly impacted by the number of visitors to the Twin Cities. The center suggested that drivers be aware of traffic congestion and to prevent further congestion should be careful not to block intersections. The center said several roads within the city will be closed due to Super Bowl-related events. Richfield will most likely be affected by traffic congestion, Henthorne said.
“We are right in between Minneapolis and the airport, so we can expect some challenges in traffic control in the days to come,” Henthorne said.
Henthorne also suggested ways to prevent car break-ins.
“Residents should be careful not to leave valuables in their cars,” Henthorne said. “That’s a perfect opportunity for a thief. People will take advantage of their surrounding areas.”
Henthorne said although the Super Bowl events may be challenging, Richfield Police are well prepared.
“We just have to get through the next 10 days,” Henthorne said. “We’ve worked events this size before.”