Employees at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and general aviation airports in the Twin Cities are gearing up for Super Bowl 52 and the record number of travelers the game will bring. The airports will be many visitors’ first and last impression of Minnesota, providing both a challenge and an opportunity for the many organizations involved in airport operations.
Toward that end, employees of dozens of airport-based organizations and staff from the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) -- which owns and operates MSP and six general aviation airports -- have worked for months to prepare for game week. The goal is to provide airline and private plane passengers with a safe, seamless airport experience that reflects well on Minnesota.
“Careful coordination among many organizations is absolutely critical to ensuring travelers have a great airport experience,” said Phil Burke, MSP's director of operations, referring in particular to federal Transportation Security, Customs and Air Traffic Control entities, airlines, ground transportation providers, food and retail concessionaires, public safety officials, the Super Bowl Host Committee, fixed base operators and the MAC. “It’s a group effort, and representatives from all parts of our airport community have been very engaged in planning over the past year. The Metropolitan Airports Commission operates one of the largest airport systems in the nation, and the positive relationships we’ve built with our airport business partners will prove indispensable as we work together exceed travelers’ expectations.”
The action at MSP will start a week before the game, when the airport hosts team arrival events expected to draw more than 150 reporters and photographers.
The players touch down at MSP
The MAC and Delta Air Lines are working with the NFL to welcome the teams playing in the Super Bowl with events on Sunday, Jan. 28 and possibly Monday, Jan. 29.
Team arrivals are photo opportunities that will be held inside a Delta hangar at MSP. The media-only events will offer the first glimpse of players and coaches as they step off the plane and into a waiting bus to whisk them to their hotels. The media will receive additional information about those events later this month.
A team approach
Since February 2017, 29 committees coordinated by the MAC have met monthly to prepare for the Super Bowl. The committees focus on security, signage, transportation, airfield operations, volunteer coordination and dozens of other priorities to give visitors the best experience possible.
Some of the improvements are occurring behind the scenes, out of view of travelers. For example, the MAC has built a distributed antenna system – with about 1,000 new antennae -- that gives the airport six times more capacity than it had previously to carry voice and data for mobile phone users. In addition the MAC, in partnership with Boingo, has increased public Wi-Fi capacity by 33 percent.
The Wi-Fi system also provides expanded coverage to areas such as the Terminal 1 rental car lobby and the Blue Line light rail transit station platforms. Additionally, the MAC is in the process of adding Wi-Fi to the Downtown St. Paul Airport terminal building, now home to Holman’s Table restaurant and bar.
Security-badged employees and volunteers at MSP International Airport are filling more than 1,600 four-hour shifts to greet visitors and answer questions during the week of the Super Bowl. The MSP greeters will be wearing vests that identify them as go-to sources of information.
In addition, 350 Crew 52 volunteers who are part of the Super Bowl Host Committee will work largely on the pre-security side of the airport, helping make a great first impression by welcoming guests from the first hello to the last goodbye.
All the greeters will help provide directions throughout the airport, engage guests and provide information about Super Bowl-related festivities.
Travelers at MSP have also likely noticed the construction work along the entry road to Terminal 1-Lindbergh, where a new hotel and a skyway connecting it to Concourse C are both being built. That work has necessitated the closure of a lane of traffic. But in coming days that lane will be re-opened and remain free flowing through Super Bowl weekend.
Click on the image for 360-degree fly-through rendering of the new ticketing level at Terminal 1.
On the inside of Terminal 1’s front-facing exterior, extensive work has been underway for months to expand the arrivals and departures lobbies out toward the drop-off and pick-up lanes. The construction walls concealing that work are set to come down soon, revealing the first phase of a multi-year effort to modernize the 55-year-old ticketing and bag claim facilities and provide spacious, light-filled lobbies that give travelers more room to check in and reclaim their bags.
Super Bowl travelers will be among the first to see the newly expanded spaces, which include new routes from the tram level to both baggage claim and ticketing, via new smart elevators and escalators.
In the last two years the MAC has also opened 50 new concessions in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, featuring some of the Twin Cities’ best known names in restaurants. Black Sheep pizza, Republic restaurant and Bar, LOLO restaurant and bar and Angel Food Bakery are just a few of the new dining spots at MSP with local ties.
On Concourse E, travelers will find the new Food Truck Alley, home to Salty Tart bakery, Red Cow bar and restaurant, and Holy Land Deli.
The airport recently rolled out a new webpage with information specific to the Super Bowl. The page provides information about extended concession hours, where to find Super Bowl apparel, news media tips and details about sustainability. The site also has information on human trafficking prevention efforts and what you can do to help identify and stop related crimes.
Airport travelers and employees who use the Blue Line Light Rail Transit system to get to MSP’s two terminals will be directed to Metro Transit buses instead on game day, Sunday Feb. 4. The Blue Line will only serve limited stops on game day to provide increased security, and MSP’s two light rail stations will not be operating.
Instead, transit users will get on buses that will run along the Blue Line’s regular route and stop at or near other stations. The Blue Line will not have regular service from 4 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 4 until sometime after the game is over and the crowd in downtown Minneapolis disperses. For more information, visit www.metrotransit.org.
Thousands of drivers for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft have obtained permits to operate at MSP in recent weeks. Those services, together with taxis, limousines, shared-ride shuttles, buses and other forms of ground transportation will help ensure ready access to and from the airport.
An influx of aircraft
Out on the airfield, the MAC and its partners -- including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) -- have been working to ensure safe, efficient operations. As many as 1,100 private planes are expected to arrive in the Twin Cities, drawn by the Super Bowl and its accompanying events. MSP and a few of the reliever airports that are also part of the MAC system have been preparing for months to accommodate the additional planes, including planning to close certain airport runways so they can be used for plane parking.
MSP International Airport can handle up to 275 private planes, with plans in place to close a portion of an infrequently used runway to provide parking spaces for those aircraft.
The MAC reliever airports expected to receive the most Super Bowl traffic are the Downtown St. Paul Airport, Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie and the Anoka County-Blaine Airport. Crystal Airport could also potentially see some additional traffic by small private aircraft.
At each reliever airport, the fixed-base operators that offer ground services to private planes are cooperating to provide the best possible customer service. Everything from fueling and de-icing of airplanes to ground transportation for guests is being coordinated to ensure visitors have the services they need.
A reservation system for private aircraft run by the NFL will assure that planes have assigned spots for landings and take-offs at the various airports. The MAC works with the FAA to ensure capacity is available for all the scheduled flights.
Aircraft flying on game day will also comply with temporary flight restrictions that will be in place for a wide area of the airspace around USBank Stadium.
Let us entertain you
Starting on Friday, Jan. 26, the Airport Foundation MSP will offer a Performing Arts Spectacular to entertain travelers coming and going at the airport.
In terms of live performances, the lineup features everything from Bollywood and hip-hop dancers to vocal and drum performances. You can see the complete schedule here.
A variety of static exhibits are available to travelers. The Transfer of Memory exhibit, which illustrates Holocaust survivors living in Minnesota, has a presence in both terminals. A Minnesota sports-themed exhibit, titled "Best Game in the World," is located in the Thomson-Reuters Gallery on Concourse C.
Are you ready?
When the game’s over, MSP’s biggest day is just beginning.
The day after the Super Bowl – Monday, Feb. 5 – is set to be the busiest day in MSP history by passenger volume. That day, up to 70,000 people are expected to pass through security checkpoints at MSP, nearly twice the usual number.
MSP encourages travelers to follow the 5-4-3-2-1 model when planning their departure on days around the Super Bowl. Five hours ahead of your plane’s scheduled departure, you should check out of your hotel and arrange transportation to the airport if you don’t already have it.
Four hours ahead of your departure, you should return your rental car.
Three hours ahead, you should arrive at your airline’s ticketing and baggage check operations.
Two hours ahead, you should be in line for the security screening.
And one hour ahead of your flight, you should aim to be at your departure gate.
The Super Bowl will bring tens of thousands of visitors to the Twin Cities, and plans are in place to ensure their trip through MAC airports is safe and enjoyable.