By Nicole Norfleet Star Tribune

A historic mansion outside downtown Minneapolis could make the perfect venue for a Super Bowl soiree as long as event planners don’t mind that it normally functions as a funeral home.

A church near U.S. Bank Stadium has been fielding multiple calls asking it to rent out space. St. Paul’s Frogtown Curling Club has corporate groups lined up to reserve ice time. Parking lots are getting new life as party spaces, and a chunk of the vacant former Dayton’s department store is booked for official Super Bowl events.

As Minneapolis prepares to play host to Super Bowl LII, the stadium’s urban setting, Minnesota’s winter temperatures and the Twin Cities’ relatively small meeting spaces have forced organizers to get creative.

More than 150 parties and other events are expected to rock the Twin Cities during the 10 days that lead to the Super Bowl, more than what was tracked during last year’s big game in Houston, according to the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.

Venues range from big to small: from McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks restaurant being rented out by U.S. Bank and Visa to the Mall of America in Bloomington that is hosting multiple events over the 10-day party.

Aria in downtown Minneapolis is booked for an event each evening from Wednesday through Sunday. The Butcher & the Boar restaurant, which is closed to the public Saturday night for a private event, has been contacted by numerous NFL teams with interest in booking space.

The Minneapolis Armory, which not long ago was still a parking garage, will host four days of concerts with Jennifer Lopez, Imagine Dragons, Pink and Kelly Clarkson. The Lumber Exchange Event Center, at Hennepin Avenue and 5th Street, is also booked solid over Super Bowl weekend with comedian and singer Jamie Foxx and rapper Rick Ross, among others.

Events are also booked at First Avenue, the Guthrie and the new Prive Minneapolis nightclub, which was able to secure popular music acts like Cardi B as well as the Playboy Super Bowl Party with Snoop Dogg.

Still other groups have plans, but no space. Pastor Dan Collison has fielded numerous calls and e-mails from groups, including former NFL players, an on-call organ donation company, and an anti-NFL organization wanting to hold a rally, who hoped to use parts of his First Covenant Church, located across 6th Street S. from U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I’ve been surprised at the variety of people who seem to feel that proximity is really important,” Collison said. “At the same time, I’m like, ‘We’re a church.’ ”

First Covenant has agreed to lease to the NFL for training staff and volunteers.

The large amount of interest in event rentals comes as no surprise to Super Bowl organizers.

“How rare it is for Minnesota to host an event like this,” said Michael Howard, spokesman for the host committee. “It’s only happened one time before 26 years ago and so part of it I think is just the excitement to be part of an event like this and to have it here in Minnesota.”

Compared to Houston and other Super Bowl host cities, Minneapolis has a smaller amount of rentable square footage for larger events. For example, the George R. Brown Convention Center, which Houston used to host its Super Bowl Experience, is close to 2 million square feet, sizably larger than the Minneapolis Convention Center, where the Experience will be held next month. In Houston, it took up the first floor with Radio Row, which allows fans to wander broadcast booths and house large news conferences also held at the center. Here, Super Bowl Experience will fill the entire convention center, while Radio Row is at the Mall of America and a lot of the news conferences are at the Hilton Minneapolis.

Even projects still under construction are getting rented out. The empty former Macy’s store on 7th Street S. and Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, which is in the middle of a multimillion-dollar renovation into modern offices and retail space, has become an unlikely event center during the week leading up to the game.

The host committee will take over the property with a first floor that includes corporate vendors, food and beverage options, a Prince display and the Kitten Bowl, which will broadcast a small arena full of playing kittens.

The former JB Hudson jewelry store will be a backstage waiting area for performers before they hit the “Verizon Up Stage at Ice Mountain” for the free Super Bowl Live concerts on Nicollet Mall. On the skyway level will be an NFL merchandise pop-up shop and some committee offices.

“People remember the Dayton’s first floor so it’s going to be an opportunity for folks to see what are we doing so far,” said Don Kohlenberger, president of Hightower Initiatives and project coordinator for the property’s renovation.

When a venue doesn’t meet specifications, planners aren’t opposed to building their own.

A star-studded “Players Tailgate” party is going to a parking lot on the corner of 5th Avenue S. and 3rd Street S. near the Crooked Pint Ale House.

Indianapolis-based travel package company Bullseye Event Group will begin building a 30,000-square-foot climate controlled pavilion about 10 days before the game that will have seating areas where guests can watch pregame coverage on large televisions and mingle with NFL players.

The event, which will take place before kickoff Sunday, will also have open bars and all-you-can-eat dining with gourmet dishes being prepared by Guy Fieri and other celebrity chefs. Tickets cost $750 each.

“We always staked our event on having the best venue, best location, best food, best of the best,” said Kyle Kinnett, chief executive of Bullseye.

Even the Thomson-Dougherty Funeral Home is hoping to get in on the action. Mike Wilen, real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Burnet, said he’s received an inquiry from someone looking to book it for Super Bowl week.

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