Saturday afternoon I left Columbus for Minneapolis. Coincidentally the Minnesota Golden Gophers were down here playing the Buckeyes- I was going the wrong way! I fly Southwest and for some crazy reason they didn’t have the Buckeyes-Gophers game available on their live TV that flight, just Bama-LSU and Utah-Washington. Not cool Southwest, no cool! When we landed I turned my phone back on and sighed with relief after seeing Ohio State had won- 9-0! I took a Lyft (way better than Uber IMO) to my youngest sister’s friend Sarah’s apartment (I’m calling in all the favors these days) and went to bed- I had a noon game to attend the following day. I’ve decided that living in the Central Time Zone is the worst for daytime sporting events. That whole hour earlier thing seems small, but it does make a difference for tailgating and overall atmosphere.
When I arrived at TCF Bank Stadium at 10 am, there was a decent amount of people walking around the stadium. I did a semi-loop around the brick structure and thought the stadium fit the Gopher’s campus nicely. It’s a smaller stadium, but it’s the perfect size for that school. For those that don’t know/forgot, the Vikings are playing in the University of Minnesota’s football stadium while they build their new home US Bank Stadium. I strolled through a street blocked off for fan activities, but that was relatively dead. The tailgate lots across the street were another story- they were almost full! Vikings fans were out in their full glory getting ready for the day’s game. I’ve seen them on the road twice and thought they were very festive, and they certainly didn’t disappoint at home. While I walked up and down a few rows soaking in the pre-game spirit and even stopped to pet a dog appropriately named Thor (his owner looked like a Thor as well!). This was the most lively tailgate atmosphere I’d seen for a noon game, so I was hoping that would translate to the stadium later.
Walking back to the stadium I passed through the fan area again, but it was still a ghost town. I entered through the media entrance, picked up my credential, and headed up to the press box to meet with my team contact before the game Jon. The Vikings had stuck me in the first row of their media against the window, and I went down to admire the view. I peered out at the stadium and at first, was surprised by the lack of Vikings décor- it was very Gophers out there. Then I thought it probably wasn’t worth it to try and cover everything up. Maybe they were embracing their temporary home! I did spot an old Nordic looking gate and Gjallarhorn- yes! This was the flair I imagined and went down to the stands to get a closer look.
TCF Bank Stadium is small, just two levels, but it’s very inviting and fan friendly. The main concourse is large and open with concession offerings that offer a taste of Minnesota. I saw cheese curds just like Green Bay too and wrinkled my nose. If you recall, I tried cheese curds for the first time near Lambeau and was thoroughly grossed out. These teams’ fans hate each other, but they like to eat the same nasty things! Further proof rival teams fans are the same people in different colored jerseys- haha! I walked down to the field and had a look around as the teams warmed up. The Rams were in town and I saw James Laurinaitis and a couple of new Buckeyes that had just been added to the roster the week before. Nice try St. Louis, but I was cheering for the Vikings today!
With thirty minutes to game time, a horn went off and the scoreboard alerted fans that kickoff was approaching. I love the Viking horn noise and the team uses it liberally throughout the game. It definitely incites the fans and is a good rallying noise. I’ve never been a big fan of the cat growls that are used by every team with a cat mascot (scarred for life after seeing Northwestern beat OSU in 2004- played that noise like no other), but the horn is a-okay! I went back up to the main concourse with the intention of walking around the stadium, but it was packed with fans and hard to move through, so I walked up some steps to the next level. The second level of the stadium is still very low and I climbed up to the walkway around the top of that section to find a good place to stand for the team introductions. I ended up in the standing room next to the club area. There was a ton of standing room in this stadium and I found throughout the game, not a bad view in the house. The Vikings were honoring the military during this game as Veteran’s Day was approaching. All the little ceremonial aspects of the game were done by vets and there were thank you PSAs running throughout the game by players on the video board. It was very well done. Even the cheerleaders were festive, wearing itty bitty military themed costumes! They looked fantastic, but it still had to be chilly for those girls. I’m sure they’re looking forward to cheering in an indoor facility next year!
By game time, most of the crowd was in their seats and we were ready for kickoff! The horn was sounding and the fans were cheering. While I walked around the upper walkway, I watched the game and did some serious people watching as well. Ladies, if you like rugged looking men, you need to come to Minnesota. There were so many bearded men with long, think hair-no man buns! I stood next to this man with a magnificent mane that was flowing in the wind and felt inadequate. Also worth mentioning, I saw a woman with a fierce mullet. If I could’ve taken pictures of these people without being obvious, I would have- Minneapolis hair game is on point. The accents are golden too (pun intended). Really, I like everything about the Viking fan look- hair, attire, and accent. They are my spirit animals. I was very close to buying a Viking hat complete with blonde braids (only $15!), but held off after thinking where would I put that on the flight home. Too bad teams don’t have fan apparel rentals during games, for those of us who want to get our Drake on.
The Vikings took an early lead on the Rams and when they scored they played this awesome little fight song, “Skol Vikings.” It’s very catchy and the cheerleaders come out into the end zones to do a more traditional cheerleading dance (less sexy, more cutesy/rah rah) and guys run around the field with V-I-K-I-N-G-S banners. I like when teams have songs, and they put the words on the screen, so people like me can sing along. The Rams did come back during the second quarter and the game was tight throughout the second half. I went up to the press box at the end of the third quarter to get my log book signed before Jon headed down to the field for his game day duties. Since I was up there and the view of the field was great, I sat in my seat for the fourth quarter. A magazine reporter was next to me doing some research for a coworker’s story and I ended up talking to him about print media. I’ve always worked on the broadcast side and was interested in learning a little more about his side of things. We talked while we watched a very intense game unfold. That hit that literally knocked out Teddy Bridgewater was on our side of the field and it made me very uneasy. Look I love football as much as the next person, but hits like that really force me to think about the player’s safety and if it’s all worth it for a few hours of entertainment on a Sunday. As he left the field, I sent some prayers his way. He’s a dynamic quarterback and seems like a good dude outside of football as well, hope he recovers quickly.
With Bridgewater out and backup Shaun Hill in, the Vikings sputtered on offense. The Rams missed a field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter to tie the game and I was relieved thinking the Vikings just needed a first down to keep the ball and squeak out the win. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get it going and the Rams got the ball again and this time they nailed that field goal sending it to OT. During the OT timeout, I went down to the upper level to watch so I’d be able to cheer. I’d been present at the only other Vikings loses and was a little nervous the team was going to ban me from games if they got another one under my watch! My move down to the stadium had to of been good luck because the Vikings’ Blair Walsh hit a 40-yard field goal to send the Rams home disappointed. Fans had stuck around for the win and celebrated accordingly. It was a mixture of jumping, high-fiving, and singing all around me. Skol Vikings forever! Following the game, the team threw the end of the Packers-Panthers game on the video board and a significant amount of fans stayed to watch. They were rewarded with an Aaron Rodgers interception in the red zone and a Packers loss. More cheering and some R-rated chanting ensued. Though I like the Packers, I went along with it, because when in Minneapolis, I’ll do as the Vikings fans do. There are so many NFL teams I like now- the playoffs are going to be tough for me this year!
Before I left the stadium I struck up a conversation with a stadium employee about the field turnover and found out they can get the field ready to go for either team in only a day. They steam the logos off the grass and can repaint the new logo/end zones quickly. He said it wasn’t much of a hassle. Below I included a time lapse video of the transition should you be as interested as I was in it. Very cool. As I waited in line for the light rail I talked to a group of Vikings fans about the game and one mentioned that it didn’t live up to his expectations for an NFL game. I agreed that it was a little watered down, but said it was because they’re in a temporary home. TCF Stadium is a great college football stadium, but it’s not an NFL venue by any means. This visit ended up being a very unique experience on my stadium tour and I’m kinda glad I caught them in transition. Also, now I have the perfect excuse to come back and visit Minneapolis!
Remember I am raising money for the Ronald McDonald House in Central Ohio. Please donate by clicking here.
Special thank you to Jon for his time and assistance during my visit!
Monday I was able to tour the US Bank Stadium Preview Center and see what the team has in the works for the new venue. The new stadium is going to be quite the state of the art facility! Before going into the center across the street, I walked by the site and watched the ongoing construction for a little bit. I am in awe of construction workers and their sheer lack of fear. Just up there, way up high, building stadiums like it’s no big deal! The outside is very striking with the harsh lines. It looks like a modern adaptation of a Vikings ship, hence the “fear the prow” slogan. Once inside the preview center, Vikings Marketing Manager, Erin met me and showed me some videos and models of the stadium. I can’t wait to go to a Vikings game in their new home and see all the hard work come together. I’m so glad teams are moving away from tarp covered domes to windows allowing natural light to shine through. Look back at my dome posts and you’ll notice my pictures suck. It’s dark and gloomy inside those things- they always look dirty too! Not to mention the mega harsh lighting made me look like a little gremlin half the time. Trust me there are so many selfies that will never see the light of day from those visits! Picture lighting seems very trivial, I know, but really think about it. What do people like to do when they’re out? Share where they are on social media. Good pictures equal more sharing and more people thinking, “Hey that looks like fun, maybe I should go.” Just the day and age we live in people, embrace it! Another cool thing about that natural light roof is it’s angled so snow can fall into gutters and then be recycled into drinking water for the stadium. That’s a green win for sure!
I also asked Erin if they would be incorporating any new traditions and she said the team has some ideas in the works. Since I’m not sure what they want kept on the DL, I’ll just say they sound like fun and further the Nordic themes. I do hope they end up with a prominent display of the Gjallarhorn, because I thought that thing was super cool and was disappointed I couldn’t get a picture with it. See there I go with pictures again. I just want to share my adventures with y’all… and not look like an underworld creature in the process- this isn’t too much to ask, right?! Another thing I need to mention- if you have the money, you should definitely upgrade your game day experience by buying a ticket to the field level club or a suite. The Vikings have improved upon Dallas’ model and you’re not at players’ butt level directly behind the bench, but on the actual turf field and able to see the entire field. Erin took me into a life-size model of the suites and I have to throw this out there- if anyone wants to take me to a game in one of those, let me know, I am always available!
I could’ve spent the whole day flipping through videos and slides of the new stadium with Erin, but I figured she had a job to do and I had a flight back to Ohio to catch. The tour had me excited to return for another Vikings game and gave me new appreciation for what an NFL team is able to do for a city. US Bank Stadium isn’t just the home to the Vikings, but a shared venue for baseball, hockey, and concerts. It’s revitalizing the area around the site as apartment complexes and shops are going up as demand for the neighborhood increases. With the updated facility, they’ll bring a Super Bowl and countless other high profile sporting events to Minneapolis. It also gives Americans a reason to visit a city they might not have thought to visit in the past. Always visiting New York, LA, Miami gets tiresome after awhile and there’s more to the Midwest than Chicago! I know from experience it’s the cities you don’t expect to be cool that catch you off guard and blow you away. Midwest is best my friends, Midwest is best!
If you’d like to see more US Bank Stadium updates and plans, visit the Vikings’ website.