BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The first handoff of the 2018 NFL season has been made.
Vikings Owners Zygi, Mark and Lenny Wilf, Gov. Mark Dayton, and Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee members Maureen Bausch, Richard Davis, Marilyn Carlson Nelson and Doug Baker joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday morning to pass the football to Atlanta officials who are now on the clock for Super Bowl LIII.
The transfer followed a successful 10-day festival that culminated with Sunday's entertaining game between the Eagles and Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The marquee event, which was nearly four years in the making and involved three years of extensive planning, brought in nearly 6,000 media members from around the globe and gave Minnesotans a chance to showcase the way that people here embrace the cold, Bold North, and extend hospitality.
Zygi, the Vikings Owner/Chairman, added a special Minnesota touch with a SKOL clap for the job done by organizers and the 12,000 volunteers, many of whom had outdoor assignments at Super Bowl LIVE, for their commitment and warm welcome.
"I wanted to add a brief personal note of thanks and gratitude to everyone from Minnesota," Zygi Wilf said. "Well done, team. We are extremely proud of the state of Minnesota and our communities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Bloomington and the entire region for rising to the occasion.
"I want to give a 'SKOL' to Minnesota, and I want to transfer that 'SKOL' to Atlanta," clapping above his head once for each location.
Davis said organizers knew there was an opportunity for extreme weather, much more so than most of the previous host sites, but the climate here directed the vision.
Thrill seekers zip-lined across the Mississippi River, with all spots selling out in minutes, and thousands packed recently renovated Nicollet Mall for outdoor events that included a snowmobile jump by Levi LeVallee on Saturday and free musical performances throughout the week.
"Cold came to mind, and 'Bold' came out of it. We thought this is a region of the world that a lot of people don't know much about, so we'll call it the 'Bold North' and welcome you with open arms," Davis said. "There are only a few NFL franchises that have an entire region they're responsible for, and this for us, was the state of Minnesota's way to celebrate and welcome you to our home. You came and engaged and celebrated.
"There were a number of people who asked us if we felt bad about it ending, and as it turns out, when you go back to the original goal for this wonderful opportunity presented to us by the NFL, it was to showcase and welcome people with an intent to bring them back. That's what this year has allowed us to do. We've celebrated the entire state of Minnesota."
Time flew, in addition to the snowmobile.
"It seems like only yesterday that we started the clock for the countdown to Super Bowl LII, and what an amazing year it's been, leading up to the past 10 days," Bausch said. "I hope you saw that in the execution. Our goal was simple: to showcase the real Minnesota and host an unbelievable game. The weather performed on cue, and you know what, this is as bad as it gets, and we're all still here, but when the temperature dropped, the crowds got bigger. When it snowed, they loved it."
Gov. Dayton said, "We promised Bold North, and we delivered."
"I'm very proud of Minnesota. I want to thank the host committee. You guys are phenomenal," Gov. Dayton added. "We couldn't have pulled this off without their effort. I want to thank the 6,000 law enforcement officers, the state patrol, the National Guard who kept the area safe for everybody to enjoy and the 12,000 volunteers who gave their time and got cold toes, but made it possible for everybody to get around.
"Commissioner Goodell, I want to thank you and the NFL for giving us this phenomenal opportunity," Gov. Dayton added. "We did our very, very best, and this is the Minnesota that we're very proud of. I want to thank the Wilfs. To be in that phenomenal stadium last night and see it packed to the rafters, there's nothing like it anywhere in the world. We wouldn't be here without your dedication."
Goodell said he thought the hospitality by the people of Minnesota was "extraordinary" and U.S. Bank Stadium was an "absolutely perfect stage for our game."
"I don't think you could have done a better job as hosts of this event," Goodell said. "You brought it to another level, and I hope everybody from Minnesota has a big smile on their face because you deserve it. We are proud of you, and I hope you are proud of yourself."
Mark Wilf thanked Commissioner Goodell, Gov. Dayton, the host committee, volunteers and Vikings staff for the collaborative effort.
"A three-year journey of hard work and preparation paid off in these last 10 days," Mark Wilf said. "We're also very proud that U.S. Bank Stadium stood up tall on the world's stage. Last night, the rest of the NFL and the world got to see why we are so excited about this stadium and what it means to our community and to Vikings football team."
He also congratulated the Eagles for their first Super Bowl victory, wished leaders in Atlanta well in their preparations and said the Vikings will do everything they can to participate in next year's event.
"The Vikings have turned the page and we're already hard at work, preparing for the 2018 season and to ensure that we represent the NFC in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta," Mark Wilf said.