BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The NFL, Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, Gov. Mark Dayton and Vikings Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf officially welcomed the world to Minnesota on Monday at the Mall of America.
The Wilfs joined NFL Senior Vice President of Events Peter O'Reilly, Gov. Dayton, Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Executive Board Members Doug Baker, Maureen Bausch, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Richard Davis and Vikings Executive Vice President Lester Bagley for an opening press conference to express excitement for the upcoming week of activities in advance of Super Bowl LII, which will be held Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"This group has done an outstanding job of preparing for this incredible week and for the world's premiere sporting event," Mark Wilf said. "On behalf of the Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf family, I want to add our welcome to Minnesota, welcome to Super Bowl LII and welcome to the Bold North.
"I also want to take a moment to congratulate Bob Kraft and his family and the New England Patriots, and Jeff Lurie and his family and the Philadelphia Eagles for their successful seasons," he continued. "Neither of these two Super Bowl teams have had the opportunity to play in U.S. Bank Stadium. We're excited for what they're about to see and what the world will see. U.S. Bank Stadium is an incredible venue that is electric and intimate. It has an outstanding fan experience and game-day energy. This amazing stadium is both beautiful and functional. Welcome to Minnesota where our people are bold, Vikings fans are bold and our stadium is bold."
Zygi Wilf expressed his "appreciation and gratitude to this community for once again stepping up and taking on the significant challenge of hosting the Super Bowl."
"I also want to add a personal note of gratitude to Gov. Dayton and the Minnesota business and community leaders for being such great partners of the Vikings and my family," Zygi Wilf said. "We are excited about hosting visitors from throughout the country and world. We look forward to you visiting Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington and the entire region and state. This week you will experience great hospitality, restaurants, architecture, outdoor activities and a vibrant community with an outstanding quality of life, second to none.
"At this time, I congratulate the two teams in the Super Bowl right now, but I also want to thank the Minnesota Vikings fans for their continued support," Zygi Wilf continued. "They are the best fans in the world. Wherever we go, we appreciate their support, and one day, soon, we will get to the Lombardi [Trophy]. Right now, I would like to congratulate both teams. We look forward to a great Super Bowl, a competitive Super Bowl and a Super Bowl that the fans will really enjoy. We look forward to all of our guests visiting Minnesota."
The press conference occurred in the colossal Mall of America, which stands on the grounds of former Metropolitan Stadium, the open-air home of Vikings teams (from 1961-81) that advanced to four of the first 11 Super Bowls.
The Patriots and Eagles are staying in hotels that are attached to the mall, and there will be hundreds of media personalities broadcasting thousands of hours of programming from the third floor food court and other areas in the mall. Nearly 6,000 media members from around the globe have been credentialed, and athletes and celebrities will be guests on radio and television programs visible to what O'Reilly called the "most unique Media Center and fan gallery we've ever had."
"We're excited about welcoming all of the nation — all of the world — to Minnesota," Gov. Dayton said. "This will be Bud Grant-football weather. You'll realize what we went through, those of us who grew up with the Vikings back when it was all outdoor football."
Dayton talked about the community resource that U.S. Bank Stadium has provided by hosting community events, high school football, baseball games and roller-blading and thanked the members of the host committee who have been working toward this week for nearly four years.
"None of this would have happened without Zygi and Mark Wilf," Gov. Dayton said. "They have been fabulous partners for this endeavor, for the team and the state of Minnesota. They said they wanted to keep the team here in Minnesota, they said they wanted to build a stadium for the next generation.
"They've built a franchise we're all proud of. We'll be in the Super Bowl next year," Gov. Dayton added. "We're all wearing purple ties in defiance. We've got a great game with two great teams, and we have a great Minnesota Vikings franchise to look forward to for many years. Full-credit to Zygi and Mark Wilf for their leadership and commitment to Minnesota."
Baker remembered receiving a call from Gov. Dayton to work on the bid that was selected by NFL Owners.
"What started four years ago is live. We are pumped to have a great week," Baker said. "We plan to showcase Minnesota, this region, Minneapolis-St. Paul and the Bold North to the world through [the media]. We promise you a week you won't forget, and it won't just be the weather, although that will be notable at times this week. It's really not the weather that defines this region. This is a community of builders."
Baker said a strong economy and committed community are part of a bright future, noting that the 2.7-percent unemployment rate of Minneapolis-St. Paul is the lowest of all metro areas in the country.
"This low unemployment didn't stop the community from raising their hands when we asked for volunteers," Baker said. "When asked for 10,000 volunteers, we had 30,000 hands go in the air. They know what we know: This is a great community because of the community spirit."
Volunteers already have been in full force since Friday when **Super Bowl LIVE**, a 10-day free festival on Nicollet Mall, opened to the public. The **Super Bowl Experience**, a ticketed event that was started when Minnesota hosted Super Bowl XXVI in 1992, opened in the Minneapolis Convention Center on Saturday.
O'Reilly said he has been impressed by the warmth of the people and the legacy that local businesses and communities have built throughout the state through the 52 Weeks of Giving campaign that awarded grants of more than $5 million across the state.
"I'm often asked what makes Super Bowl LII in Minnesota unique, and the conversation often turns to the cold and weather, but my real answer is the people of Minnesota and incredible volunteers who have come together — record numbers of volunteers," O'Reilly said. "We've seen that, walking the skyways, even on these first few days and walking through Super Bowl LIVE. The people and the energy and the warmth here in the Bold North is really coming through and will come through the entirety of this week. What's also unique is the legacy that this Super Bowl will leave. Maureen and her team and the Vikings, the moment that Super Bowl LI ended in Houston, the legacy component of this Super Bowl started."