Despite more than 140,000 tickets distributed to fan for tours of U.S. Bank Stadium this weekend, most of the Minnesota Vikings players haven’t seen the impressive spectacle that will be their home.
About a dozen Vikings were in the stadium last week, many of them for the first time. Like fans that have seen it, the top features varied from man to man. But, to a man, they agreed on one thing.
“Beautiful place. Real beautiful,” nose tackle Linval Joseph said. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Most of the players will have to wait a little longer to see it. The Vikings’ first preseason game there is Aug. 29 against the San Diego Chargers, but for the select few that made appearances there last week, getting an early peek was appreciated. The general feeling was that the roof, where 60 percent of it is made with the translucent ETFE material, was that the indoor stadium had a uniquely outdoor feel.
“I couldn’t believe it as soon as I walked in. You forget that the top is half and half. It’s going to be exciting to see what a game in here is like,” said guard Alex Boone, who now laughs about him thinking the Vikings were still going to be playing outside when he signed with them in March.
Center John Sullivan was impressed with the “tons of natural light” that comes through the roof and glass doors that reach as high as 95 feet. After seeing pictures of the stadium on social media, he wondered if the trusses and 40 percent of the roof that isn’t translucent would cause hard shadows on the field during day games.
Once inside the stadium, those concerns dissipated.
The close proximity between the fans in the first few rows and the players on the sideline also made an impression on the players, but receiver Adam Thielen already had his favorite viewing area for fans picked out – a small spot where only two rows are set.
“I thought that was the coolest spot in the house,” he said. “Just standing on the field level and just seeing how big the structure is and feeling like you’re outside even though you’re inside, I think that’s probably my favorite thing.”
The locker room, and the walk from there to the field, also made an impression on the players. For those who experienced the cramped feeling of the Metrodome locker room, U.S. Bank Stadium has plenty of room. But the details in the locker room stood out to some.
While many professional sports teams have their logo embedded in the carpet, the Vikings’ Norseman logo is an artistic structure hanging from the ceiling.
“I think that’s a very respectful thing. I’ve always believed that you should never step on your logo, so for them to do that, I was like, ‘Wow! They get it here,’” Boone said. “This is football at its finest.”
From the locker room, players will walk right past fans during warmups and halftime in the Delta Sky Club, separated only by a railing.
“Walking out of the locker room onto the field and just walking by fans, the Cowboys had the Plexiglass up to block the people from touching you or interacting, but I like how the Vikings don’t have that and it’s just fans; they’re here for us,” defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. “It’s not like we’re in danger or anything. I think it’s going to be kind of cool to interact with them. We’ve got the season ticket holders on the field. That’s pretty cool, too. Come over and some guy celebrating with them. It’s just a lot to look forward to.”
Floyd joked that it’s a good thing the visitors won’t be coming through that same area or they would have chicken wings and Caesar Salads thrown at them.
“I think the place is incredible. I just think it’s not over the top, like Dallas maybe, but it’s obviously gorgeous,” Chad Greenway said. “The concourses are huge. It’s going to be great for the fans. I personally liked the Metrodome because it was a huge home-field advantage for us. I know for the fans it was a miserable experience.”
The Vikings’ first regular-season game will see them hosting the Green Bay Packers, a double thriller for fans who get to see the Vikings’ biggest rival and the home opener in a new stadium.
“I think it’s amazing,” Sullivan said. “To open up against your main rival – which is tough to even say that because everyone in the North is rivals with each other, it’s a highly contested and passionate division – I don’t think you can beat opening up with Green Bay at home Week 2.”
For Boone, and likely others, that game in the new stadium is viewed as a tone-setter.
“When you have your rival and a team like that come in here the first game in the new stadium. It’s one of those, how are we going to set the tone for the year? How are we going to set the tone for this stadium?” Boone said. “You obviously want to come out on top, but you know it’s going to be a physical fight and it’s going to exciting.”
And the first of many more to come, but this one is the first in the new stadium that appeals in different ways to different people.