U.S. Bank Stadium
You can see it in the footage of the insane 61-yard, final-play touchdown that won the Vikings a trip to the 2018 NFC Championship title game. On every inch of turf, in every pocket of the bowl, there were people, cameras, people, and more cameras. Which is a good thing, because watching replays captured from every angle won’t get old anytime soon.
The Vikings were playing at home, extending their second season in Minneapolis’ new U.S. Bank Stadium into a revelry befitting Norse tradition. But what is extra remarkable is that this party is happening in the same venue where Super Bowl LII will rattle the rafters on February 4.
Usually, to the relief of venue personnel and event producers, the Super Bowl takes place in a stadium that fate has deemed would be dark in the post season. Well, not so in Vikings country. In the week prior to the NFC division final, Tadd Wilson, Broadcast Operations Manager for U.S. Bank Stadium, was working on all fronts to prepare for that major home-field event and simultaneously heading “full bore” into preparations for the big game in early January.
“It’s just juggling what we’re doing for the division final and the Super Bowl as we make plans for the game this weekend,” he said at the time. Work for the main event would continue in tandem with contingency plans layered upon contingency plans dictated by what happened on the gridiron.
Fortunately, multifaceted planning for such large-scale events began at the inception of the stadium’s design. From the start, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the Vikings had a vision for a next-level experience that could amplify regular season games and marquee events alike. “They built with ease of expandability in mind,” explained Jeff Volk, VP and Director of Sports and Entertainment with Alpha Video, the Eden Prairie, MN-based AV integrator that implemented the video control room for the venue. “So, while the stadium, because it’s relatively new, provides a platform that was amongst the most technologically advanced in the world, now everyone is adding and enhancing infrastructure, and doing things unique to the Super Bowl.”
Vikings Control Room
Built with multi-screen engagement and live event entertainment integrated through to its core, U.S. Bank Stadium already has fiber backbone and connection points for days. But for these mega events, even more fiber was being pulled to even more camera positions and special event video display sites. WiFi connectivity also received a big upgrade, and Verizon also went all out with enhanced cellular coverage for the stadium and the neighborhood beyond.
The enhanced setup is dramatically different than a normal game day, with the number of fixed and wireless camera inputs doubling or nearly tripling, and a bevy of additional live event displays and LED video wall setups tapping into the IPTV system and taking over the various premium spaces. Not to mention the game-day entertainment production squad which will handle performances by Kelly Clarkson, Leslie Odom, Pink, and Justin Timberlake — and some surprise guests, of course.
With so many production teams producing and sharing content, and requests for connection points whirling around him at the stadium, Wilson was calm. The place was built as sort of a giant hub of ins and outs, after all. “The cool thing to me is how we can make it all one integrated show,” he enthused. The team was even making a fiber connection across the street to the office building that will be used as NFL headquarters. That’s where Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment was setting up operations. “We’ll integrate their edit suite like it’s an extension of our control room.”
With that and all the extra feeds producing content in the different clubs throughout stadium, “everything comes back to our main control room to put on the game presentation,” Wilson explained. The only thing that remains largely separate is the half-time production setup. They do provide feeds to the control room, but the in-house team will not be producing the show.
With plenty to accomplish no matter what happens with the home team, there’s a lot of hustle happening while in-house crews, networks, event producers, and fans await what happens next at U.S. Bank Stadium. With such a pressure-cooker of a timeline on the first marquee event at the stadium, everyone is probably looking ahead to the relative calm of the 2019 NCAA Finals that will take place there 14 months later. At least March Madness is definitely scheduled to happen elsewhere, leaving U.S. Bank Stadium to quietly set the stage for its next giant party.