Above: Maureen Hooley Bausch (left) and Wendy Williams (right), Super Bowl planners extraordinaire
By Suzy Frisch
In February, the Super Bowl will draw an expected 1 million-plus visitors, thousands of members of the media, and the eyes of the TV-watching world to Minneapolis as the game is played in the new U.S. Bank Stadium downtown. The Twin Cities will host an enormous menu of events and parties over the 10 days surrounding the game, including the NFL Experience in the Minneapolis Convention Center and Super Bowl Boulevard on Nicollet Mall.
Of course, February is the heart of winter in Minnesota. So, the nonprofit Super Bowl Host Committee, the brain center for preparations, is embracing the cold with its branding theme, the “Bold North.” Leading the effort are two U of M alumnae, Host Committee CEO Maureen Hooley Bausch (M.A. ’88) and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Wendy Williams Blackshaw (B.A. ’82).
Bausch created the Bold North idea as a way to highlight the Twin Cities’ singular blend of arts, culture, business, entertainment, and love of the outdoors in all temperatures. “I want the Super Bowl to be more than a game,” she says. “I want people to have a good time and walk away being amazed at how sophisticated and alive Minnesota is.”
Planning an event of such magnitude means marshalling a plethora of resources and mastering thousands of details in a short amount of time. “The Super Bowl is such an enormous undertaking,” says Blackshaw. “There are so many facets and so many moving parts. That’s what makes it overwhelming at times but exciting and a challenge. We’re working with the NFL, the city, and sponsors. Plus, you’re building an organization while you’re managing all of these constituents and moving parts.”
Fortunately, Bausch and Blackshaw have ample experience in prominent roles. Both spent years working at Mall of America, with Bausch joining the team in 1990, before the mall opened. She rose to the role of executive vice president of business development—essentially general manager—and successfully transformed it from a retail center to the state’s biggest tourist attraction.
Bausch majored in elementary education at U of M Duluth and taught for a few years. Then, she helped her dad grow the family’s Stillwater grocery store into part of the Cub chain. She returned to the U and earned a master’s degree in journalism with a concentration in marketing. After 13 years in the grocery business, Bausch was ready for a new challenge when the Mall of America opportunity presented itself.
Blackshaw, who earned a speech communications degree at the U and also was a hockey cheerleader, handled MOA sponsorship sales and marketing for a decade before becoming vice president of marketing and sales at Sun Country Airlines. A master of organization, Blackshaw says she excels when leading a team. She says her “amazing team” at the Host Committee is composed of 20 percent U graduates. “They are all multitasking experts who cross over into many different areas. My job is to keep this organization moving ahead.”
Blackshaw calls Bausch a visionary who comes up with “out there” ideas and makes them happen. When Bausch asked Blackshaw to join the Host Committee, she didn’t hesitate, considering it a dream come true to plan a Minnesota Super Bowl, and with her friend to boot.
If Minnesota makes a stellar impression before, during, and after the Super Bowl, the two believe more people will come back to do business, visit in another season, or host an event. Ultimately, they say, the effort could boost Minnesota’s economy. “When they see how much we enjoy the outdoors and how wonderful the people are,” Bausch says, “that is what will bring people back over and over again.”
(Main Photo By: Mark Luinenburg)