U.S. Bank Stadium is the back-up option if the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to move their Sunday night game out of Florida because of damage from Hurricane Ian, a National Football League official said Wednesday.
Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy, made the announcement on a call. Miller said the rematch of the 2020 Super Bowl is still on for Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, but that it will be moved to Minneapolis if necessary.
Miller said the first priority is to ensure the league doesn’t do anything to “negatively impact public safety efforts in the affected areas. … We’re closely monitoring the situation, and in discussion with both clubs, the stadium, local and state authorities and various weather bureaus on a minute-by-minute basis.”
Asked how close to Sunday a decision might come, Miller said there is no timeline.
“It’s literally a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour consideration and conversation with all of the affected parties, state and local authorities, disaster relief agencies and the participating clubs — as well as the Vikings,” he said.
Rumors about moving the game from Tampa Bay to Minneapolis started online early Tuesday and quickly generated excitement because of the teams and players involved.
The game would be a match-up of two of the NFL’s biggest stars and future first ballot Hall of Famers: quarterbacks Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. In the 2020 championship game, the Brady-led Buccaneers beat Mahomes and the Chiefs in Tampa Bay.
John Drum, general manager for ASM Global, which runs U.S. Bank Stadium operations, has said staff and the building can be mobilized and ready.
U.S. Bank Stadium’s 67,000-plus seats would be available Sunday night because the Vikings will be far away, playing the New Orleans Saints in London. The Vikings, the primary tenant at U.S. Bank Stadium, deferred comment to the league.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the New York-based league is in no rush to make a call.
“We always make contingency plans in the event we need to make adjustments as we continue to monitor developments and stay in contact with the two participating teams along with local officials there,” McCarthy said. “We could make decisions later in the week, including on Friday.”
Moving the game because of a hurricane isn’t unprecedented. A year ago, the New Orleans Saints home-opener against the Green Bay Packers was moved to Jacksonville, Fla., because of Hurricane Ida.
The NFL is familiar with the capabilities of U.S. Bank Stadium operations and staff because the building hosted Super Bowl 52 in 2018. Brady played in that game, too, as the losing quarterback for the New England Patriots.
It’s not yet clear whether the hurricane will hit Tampa Bay and how severe the damage will be. Even if the storm doesn’t directly hit Tampa, the damage nearby or elsewhere could strain public safety resources and necessitate moving Sunday’s game.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged Floridians to prepare for extended power outages.
Staff writer Ben Goessling contributed to this report.