Sunday night, barring a postseason encore number, the Minnesota Vikings will say goodbye to outdoor football (for home games anyway) and bid farewell to TCF Bank Stadium. For a lot of the players, heading indoors to play home games will be something they’re looking forward to. But if Sunday night is the last game at The Interim Bank, it will be something that will have happy memories and ultimate success.
In the two seasons on the University of Minnesota campus the Vikings have posted a 10-5 record, by far the best of any team playing in a temporary stadium. In fact, no other team has made the playoffs while using a temporary stadium, much less have twice as many wins as losses.
“It’s been good,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We talked about a lot of things when we started, but it’s been good.”
Playing in temporary stadiums hasn’t been all that unusual. It’s happened often, whether a team is building a new stadium, has relocated or is renovating its existing stadium. The other teams that went through what the Vikings have the past seasons included the New York Giants (1973-75), Carolina Panthers (1995), Baltimore Ravens (1996-97), Tennessee Oilers (1997-98), Seattle Seahawks (2000-01), Chicago Bears (2002) and New Orleans Saints (2005).
For whatever reason, all of those teams struggled in their temporary home. Whether it’s been the perceived lack of a home-field advantage or not, the difficulty teams have had in their temporary homes has been pervasive. It might be that they weren’t the best teams in the league at the time of their move, but neither were the Vikings when they made the move. They were coming off a 5-10-1 season and were going through a coaching change.
Somehow the Vikings have been able to buck the trend that had been established over the previous 40 years, making a temporary home a home, sweet home.
With tomorrow night’s game, the Vikings will close out their regular-season history at TCF Bank Stadium looking to take out the Giants and improve their record at The Bank to 11-5, which will permanently set the bar for other franchises that find themselves in the situation of being displaced from their past and future homes.
The Vikings made the Gophers stadium their own and the success they hoped for followed. It wasn’t the same as playing in the Metrodome, but it was home. The greatest fear that ownership, the coaching staff and players had was that, after more 30 years in the Metrodome, the Vikings had become an indoor team. They drafted for speed and finesse because they knew, with the exception of the two games played following the collapse of the Metrodome roof, they were a classic indoor team that often struggled outdoors when forced to play in the elements late in the season.
When the Vikings started playing at The Bank in August 2014, the weather was hot. Everyone cautioned to enjoy those moments because, by the time they got to December, it would be much different. The only game that has been played in what would be termed “Minnesota weather” was last year when the Viking hosted the Carolina Panthers. The game-time temperature was 13 degrees – and it was the last time the Panthers lost a regular-season game. Other than that, the Vikings haven’t faced the kind of weather that so many dreaded might happen.
The projections for Sunday night could push that temperature lower, but, for the most part, the Vikings didn’t have to play in the type of conditions that were predicted by so many.
The Vikings will play their last regular-season game at their interim home and, in the big picture of things, it will be something associated with an asterisk. They played more than 20 years at Metropolitan Stadium, more than 30 years at the Metrodome and the plan will be that they play at least 30 more years at U.S. Bank Stadium. The time at TCF Bank Stadium will fade from the memory, but, for those who played there for two years, they were the best of times. The team won in front of the home fans and, while viewed by many as a throwback to a simpler time when the Vikings had an outdoor home-field advantage, especially in the postseason when warm-weather teams came to fans, it created a legitimate home-field edge in a stadium that was never truly their home.
If things go as the Vikings hope, there will be one more game at The Bank in January, closing out their time in the building by hosting a playoff game. Regardless of how the next two or three weeks plays out, the Vikings have been a success under conditions no previous organization has been able to match. Most of the players won’t miss TCF Bank Stadium once they move into their new iconic digs on the old Metrodome site, but it will hold a place in franchise history and will have plenty of happy memories to draw back upon because it was a home they could be proud of and turned into their own – even if only on a rental basis.