When the X Games moved from Austin, Texas, to Minneapolis this summer, it meant more than a geography change. U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings’ new home, also allowed the multisport event to be held mostly under one roof.
Event Development Director Ryan McGuinness says that logistical switch made all the difference. “It brought about a lot of benefits and efficiencies,” says McGuinness of using an NFL-sized venue for the first time.
The result was an unqualified success, says McGuinness.
About 100,000 attendees made it to the competition, fan fest and music festivities over four days in July. McGuinness was particularly impressed by the walk-up ticket sales, indicating Minneapolis’ interest in extreme sports.
That passion was a key reason the Twin Cities region slid in as host after the X Games spent three years in Austin.
McGuinness cites heavy storms and other weather challenges for spurring a move out of Texas. Minneapolis checked several boxes during the site selection process.
“It actually has a lot similarities to Austin in terms of a younger and very active demographic,” he says. “I don’t know that a lot of people realize there’s a strong action sports scene [in Minneapolis].”
Host With the Most
U.S. Bank Stadium provided the X Games an opportunity to move to a downtown location. Almost all of the events were within walking distance of each other. The most movement was from fans with general admission tickets who’d migrate between competitions to get a better view of the next event.
The X Games are locked in for Minneapolis again next year. McGuinness predicts some tweaks, primarily in terms of wayfinding and communication.
That’s to be expected for a venue as new as U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016 just as the X Games announced its move, says McGuinness.
“I wouldn’t expect drastic changes,” he adds.
Then comes the hard part. McGuinness and company will have to weigh remaining in a destination that’s provided a positive experience versus the opportunity to move the X Games to a new market.
U.S. Bank Stadium’s size and retractable roof made life easier for event planners. But McGuinness says the X Games won’t necessarily seek out another football stadium. “We’re open to any and all options,” McGuinness says.
That includes remaining in Minneapolis beyond 2018 before rotating the event elsewhere in the country. “It’s a place we could see ourselves spending a little more time, but that’s all being evaluated now,” says McGuinness.