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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

The NFL asked for a lot before bringing the Super Bowl to Minnesota. And Minnesota obliged.

The state's bid for the game agreed to all of the NFL's lengthy demands on cities interested in hosting the event, from free hotel rooms to exemptions on all local taxes. The bid was signed by Meet Minneapolis, the city's nonprofit booster group, in 2014, and obtained by the Star Tribune this month through a records request.

Among the highlights of the document are nearly 200 provisions that must be provided "at no cost to the NFL," as well as the condition that the League retain all ticket revenue.

The Star Tribune first published the NFL's secret, 153-page list of demands in 2014. A source at the time said local organizers had agreed to a majority of them, but the bid document shows that — with one exception relating to practice sites — they were all approved. The document also sets limits for how much local organizers would pay for certain services.

The bulk of the local costs related to hosting the game fell on the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, which raised more than $50 million in private funds to cover expenses. That money repaid the city of Minneapolis more than $7 million, for example, for law enforcement, parking and other public expenses.

The largest public cost relating to the game was tax exemptions. The state Department of Revenue estimated that a tax break on Super Bowl-related tickets and parking sales meant the state lost out on $9 million and local governments $1.3 million in potential revenue. The Host Committee had to reimburse the NFL for some taxes that were not exempted, such as player income taxes.

Maureen Bausch, who was CEO of the Host Committee, said a lot changed in the years after the bid was submitted — when the stadium was still under construction. The Host Committee has declined to make the subsequent agreements public. She said the NFL was willing to negotiate.

"They're good business partners," Bausch said. "I think back in that bid phase, it's good negotiating: Ask for everything you can get. But when they chose Minnesota, they became our partner and they wanted it to work as much as we did."

Bausch said that the Host Committee paid out just over $50 million, largely raised from corporate donors. She said the NFL's expenses were five times greater.

"It might look like a lot to the outside world, what the Host Committee did. But in reality the NFL pays more," Bausch said.

The bid document, formatted as a point-by-point response to the bid specifications, covers details large and small. It outlines a need for 35,000 parking spaces — which Bausch said was much more than they ultimately needed — free advertising, presidential suites, extra power and communications capacity, and even commitments to spend on decorations at the airport.

In a section dubbed "government guarantees," bidders agreed to provide free security, help create "clean zones" free of unwanted activities and offer law enforcement assistance to seek out counterfeit merchandise and tickets. It also agreed to reimburse the NFL for any taxes the league or its teams might have to pay while in town.

Bausch said the Host Committee spent less than the previous Super Bowl committee in Houston. Among their other expenses were hundreds of thousands of dollars for snowplowing and rent for all the facilities that were needed to accommodate Super Bowl operations.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said it is common for other sports leagues to request many of the same provisions when bringing major events into an area.

"The Host Committee did a tremendous job organizing and pulling together the entire region," McCarthy said.

Meet Minneapolis is a nonprofit entity tasked with promoting the city and attracting events. Its budget is largely supported by taxpayers through City Hall appropriations. The organization's president, Melvin Tennant, signed the Super Bowl bid agreement pages.

The Star Tribune first asked Meet Minneapolis for the bid document Feb. 5, the day after the game. It first provided a heavily redacted version of the document on April 20, citing trade secret and security provisions in state law for hiding information like the number of free parking spaces sought by the NFL. It argued that information about what it offered the NFL could give other cities an advantage against Minneapolis when competing for future large events.

Believing the redacted information was public data, the newspaper asked the state Data Practices Office to issue an opinion on the matter. Meet Minneapolis responded with another document in late June, containing fewer redactions. It then released a third copy this month that eliminated the trade secret redactions.

"Initially shielding specific trade secret information was in an effort to allow Minneapolis to continue competing on a national and international level to attract major events to our city and region," Tennant, who was not available for an interview, said in a statement.

Don Gemberling, once the state's lead data practices official, said the intent of the trade secret statute is to protect information like the formula for Coca-Cola.

"It's 'formulas,' 'patterns,' 'compilations,' 'programs,' 'devices,' 'methods,' 'techniques' or 'processes,' " Gemberling said, referring to language in the law. "How do you get number of parking spots out of those words? You don't."

(612) 673-1732, Twitter: @StribRoper

 

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