Sunday Slant: No idea left behind at Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium

The Vikings thought big with their new stadium, setting up a winning scenario for them and their fans.

Mike Zimmer has gained somewhat of a throwback reputation as the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach. Longtime fans harkened back to the steely days of Bud Grant roaming the sidelines with nostalgia dancing through their heads.

That’s all fine and good for mythmaking, but there is nothing “throwback” about where Zimmer will be coaching next year. He can wear short-sleeved shirts in comfort in the climate-controlled enclosures of U.S. Bank Stadium without an ounce of intimidation, unlike Grant’s game-day get-up on the frozen sideline at old Met Stadium – two stadiums ago for him and the Vikings franchise.

When it comes to architecture and technology, Met Stadium and its replacement relic, the Metrodome, are just so ’60s and ’70s. Both are now gone and dwarfed by commerce (the Mall of America) and indulgence in the billion-dollar operation that the NFL has become (U.S. Bank Stadium).

Dating back almost 20 years now, when Ol’ Red McCombs came to Minnesota riding high on his horse, he continued the mantra that the old “Gang of 10” ownership group had started – the Vikings were playing in an antiquated Metrodome. In four months, the new home of the Vikings will finally open after decades of complaining, back-door finagling and political arm-twisting. But instead of a new stadium built on the cheap – McCombs was fine with an outdoor stadium costing somewhere around $300 million during his pitches – the next set of Vikings owners built their fortunes on development and knows to build it right.

As the monthly updates on stadium features continue, it seems no (good) idea was left behind. Retractable roofs in the NFL seem like a great idea, but studies show they aren’t used as often as you’d think. So the Vikings and the stadium authority not only went outside the box, they went outside the country for their idea of tying indoor athletics into outdoor aesthetics. Sixty percent of U.S. Bank Stadium’s roof will be a translucent material known as ETFE used in Beijing’s Water Cube for the Olympics.

For the first year of construction, that was the signature storyline for U.S. Bank Stadium. It still will be a prominent feature as the stadium nears its opening, but there is so much more.

Gone is the traditional bowl look of stadiums. This one represents the iconic Vikings ships with modern materials. Revolving doors up to 95 feet high and 50 feet wide add to the natural light flowing into the stadium and the sightlines to downtown Minneapolis.  

With 240,000 square feet of ETFE on the roof and 180,000 square feet of glass for walls and doors, the indoor stadium will have an outdoor feel.

But with the majority of the stadium finished now, it’s more about what’s inside than outside … and there is plenty.

Yes, there are wider concourses, more restrooms and greater food options. There are far more and divergent suite options for the corporate types or individual willing to spend for their Sunday parties. From turf-level suites to fantasy football suites to those that have access to outside patios and those in Club Purple – one of the most unique sections that features purple couches in the lower seating bowl – there are modern looks and original thinking throughout.

All of those bring a unique twist to the design. But it’s also about what isn’t seen. The technology should be first-rate, one of the most dramatic but unseen changes from the outdate space saucer that was the Metrodome.

In addition to massive video screens, U.S. Bank Stadium features about 2,000 HDTVs throughout, 13HD video and ribbon-board technology and – here’s the unseen but heavily felt piece – 1,300 Wi-Fi access points installed, including within “clam shells” inside hand rails.

The Vikings and stadium stewards are wisely taking advantage of the technological upgrades with a new mobile app to help with everything from ticketing and wayfinding to food and beverage to merchandise and content.

No doubt, breaking in the stadium will have some learning experiences with all that is new, shiny and huge, but it’s clear this isn’t the stadium originally sought by the “Gang of 10” or McCombs ownership groups. The Wilfs thought big and will earn big because of it. But fans will also win big when the ZygiBank opens for business in August.


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