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Warm greetings aside, Super Bowl festivities bring on cold reality

Pedestrians walk by the snow-covered American Birkebeiner International Bridge set up on the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis.
Jim Mone/Associated Press
Pedestrians walk by the snow-covered American Birkebeiner International Bridge set up on the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS — It used to be that the Super Bowl was held somewhere warm and fun, like Miami or New Orleans. (Miami’s been the site of 11 Super Bowls and New Orleans has hosted 10.)

It’s too soon to say whether Minneapolis is fun, but it sure isn’t warm. Not even close. And while that might be great for Minnesota’s hardy ice harvesters, it’s so far been a bummer for football fans with a lot of time to kill before Sunday’s kickoff.

Nicollet Mall, a busy downtown promenade of the sort envisioned by folks who want to close Newbury Street to cars, has been turned into something called “NFL Live,” which is really just a series of open-air activities — snowmobile stunts, sleigh rides, tubing, live music — that seem intended to make people ignore the creeping frostbite.

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It worked for about 20 minutes before we finally had to bail on the bitter wind chill and find warmth, which we managed to do at La Belle Crepe, a closet-size bistro on Nicollet that serves Italian coffee and exquisite pho.

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Well-fed and feeling brave, we foolishly gave it another try, steering ourselves toward the trendy Mill District neighborhood, where our reward would be one of Minneapolis’s many fine craft beers. Nah. Concerned that our walk could end a la “Revenant,” we turned around and ducked into Ike’s, an old-style cocktail lounge that serves local beers but without the exposed brick and hipster clientele.

Minneapolis is getting a lot of credit for being “nice,” and it seems deserved. The streets are full of volunteers — dubbed “purple people greeters” — directing beleaguered football fans. But some downtown businesses, including Ike’s, have been accused of price gouging, which is not so nice. When Ike’s unveiled its special Super Bowl menu that included guacamole and chips for $36 and a 10-ounce steak for $110, it was shamed on social media, and the restaurant quickly apologized for the “mistake.”

Most in the media won’t even glimpse the Twin Cities this week because they’re holed up at the Mall of America, the glorified food court where the Patriots and Eagles are conducting their daily press conferences. It made sense then that the media’s annual Super Bowl bash celebrating itself was held inside the megamall Tuesday night.

Feasting on free pulled-pork sliders, mint gelato, and plenty of booze, the media throng fortified for the long week ahead. (Judging from the gut on some dudes — and the media crowd was disproportionately dudes — they didn’t need that third slider.) Also free were rides on the roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and other attractions at the country’s largest — and strangest — indoor theme park.

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The real parties, the ones lavishly bankrolled by the likes of DirecTV and featuring performances by Cardi B, Jennifer Lopez, and Migos, kick off later this week, and it’ll be interesting to see if guests roll up in Ubers wearing Eddie Bauer parkas and winter hats.

We’re not sure why, but the security at Super Bowl LII is more intense — and overt — than at the previous Super Bowls in which the Patriots have played. Officers clutching military-style assault rifles are patrolling around the media center at the Mall of America, and police are very much in evidence downtown. There were reports of helicopters buzzing downtown Minneapolis, which frightened some workers in office buildings and prompted the city to issue a statement.

“A low-flying helicopter conducting aerial security and geographical surveys of the downtown area may be seen from the ground and high-rise buildings in and around downtown Minneapolis,” it read. “The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the area at 300 feet or higher above ground surface, at a speed of approximately 80 miles per hour. These flyovers will occur only during daylight hours.”