Officials with college football's Bowl Championship Series were in the Twin Cities over the weekend, considering Minneapolis for the 2017 championship game.
College football is switching to a final-four like format for its championship starting in 2015, and will be moving the final game around the country. Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen says she thinks the BCS liked what it saw.
"We definitely are in the running," she said, as BCS officials paid a call on the Vikings-Packers game at the Metrodome last night."I can tell they're very interested in Minneapolis and Minnesota in general. I will say we are the only non warm weather state, so we'll see what happens along those lines."
She said a number of factors drew the attention of BCS officials while they were here:
The skyway link to the downtown core in Minneapolis, which will let fans get to the stadium without going outdoors
The two-block park and block-long public plaza in front of the new stadium that could provide event space.
The 73,000 seat capacity of the stadium when expanded from the regular 65,000 seat venue.
The transparent roof that could give fans the feel of being outside even in winter.
Kelm-Helgen also said that the College Football Playoffs seem to be thinking about Minneapolis sooner, rather than later:
"They commented on the fact that attendance could be bolstered by the fact that people would want to come and see this as a venue," Kelm-Helgen said. "This even would happen in early January, and it would probably be one of the first events in this stadium, and they could get a lot of attention from an early event like this."
The other venues in contention include the new Levi's Stadium in San Francisco; EverBank Field in Jacksonville, the Alamodome in San Antonio, Sun Life Stadium in Miami, and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay.
It's hard to compete with the weather in Miami in January, but Kelm-Helgen says it's not a deal-killer. "They do say that they want to expand the geographic area that they go to, and we think this would be a good year for them to do that."
That could bring the college equivalent of the Super Bowl to Minneapolis in 2017, and maybe even more. The NFL is eyeing the new stadium for an actual Super Bowl in 2018 and the chief operating officer of the College Football Playoff, Michael Keefe, is also a three-time Super Bowl host committee president. He was in the Twin Cities this weekend, and may give the NFL some additional confidence about the site if the College Football Playoff picks Minneapolis.
Kelm-Helgen says she thinks the College Football Playoff committee could pick a host for the 2017 game before Thanksgiving.