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Volume 25 No. 24
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NFL Facing Unique Challenge Prepping For Super Bowl LII With Vikings Still Playing

The NFL has staged 51 Super Bowls, and until this year, the host team never had a home game even in the divisional round of the playoffs. That changes Sunday when the Vikings face the Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium. A Vikings win and an Eagles loss to the Falcons would put the NFC Championship game in Minneapolis as well. While the host team’s success is an added local story, it is not all feel-good for the league’s event planners, who in past years enjoyed largely unfettered access to the Super Bowl venue. That has not been the case this year and it has complicated the setup for Super Bowl LII. NFL Senior VP/Events Peter O’Reilly recently talked to SBJ/SBD to see how the Vikings’ success has affected planning.

O’REILLY: It impacts it a fair amount; we have been in conversations with the Vikings for a while now about those different scenarios. Obviously there has never even been a divisional game in the home city stadium.
SBJ/SBD: That’s crazy.
O’REILLY: It’s unbelievable, but that in and of itself pushes back some of our timelines. A championship game would do that as well. So, we have had people on the ground out there since just after the start of the new year, but certain projects we would need to do in the building, as you have seen over the years -- whether it is building out different booths for international media or auxiliary press or getting all decor in place. It would certainly compact the timeline to do that. ... It would be certainly a much tighter window to get a lot of that done.
Overall, we feel good. Obviously if [the Vikings making the NFC Championship game] were to happen, it would be historic and create incredible excitement out there. But operationally it definitely changes things for when we start to do things in the stadium so as to not impact or change the fan experience for a typical Vikings game.

SBJ/SBD: Can you do work in the stadium while the Vikings are still an active home team?
O’REILLY: We are. ... For example, for the halftime show, we will do a fair amount of the rigging, which will end up being in the ceiling, the rafters of the building. You get a lot of those elements in place. And even for [Sunday’s] divisional game you will see outside of the stadium in a number of the lots we have compounds set up, and we have been working through that with the Vikings.
It is really the things that would impact any seating in there. A good example would be the auxiliary press where we are putting table tops over seats and creating those areas for media beyond the press box. Obviously, that can’t be built out. ... And as I mentioned, a number of those booths where the international broadcast would come in and broadcast for that would need to be done afterwards.
You get as much as you can have done that doesn’t impact because at the end of the day we have to make sure that the Vikings’ experience is strong. But they have been tremendous partners throughout. So, it will be interesting.