As the Minnesota Vikings prepared to open their new $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium for the regular season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell toured the facility hours before the Sunday night game.
He sat in the higher seats of the seven-level venue and toured the suites all the way to field level.
“Spectacular. I saw it I think November of last year. You could see that it had the makings of being something truly remarkable. It exceeded my expectations,” Goodell said about 2½ hours before the Vikings opened the venue for the regular season against the Green Bay Packers. “And you know where you are – you’re in a Vikings stadium – and this is part of the Minnesota community. You can see how it fits into the community walking around the outside.”
Goodell said it was an easy decision to attend the Vikings’ home opener with all the effort that was put into securing financing for the public-private partnership. And there was another incentive.
His daughter, Susie, is a Vikings fan and even received a Legacy Brick outside the stadium as a Christmas present.
“The way they brought the tradition and the history of the team in, I think it’s really incredibly well-done. I hope it’s a sense of pride,” Goodell said. “I know it is for the Wilf family. They deserve a lot of credit, but so do the people of this community. Stadiums are complex. They’re difficult and they deserve a lot of credit for doing this incredibly well.”
The Vikings are trying to incorporate the history of the franchise with the all the luxuries and financial incentives of the modern NFL marketplace.
“The seats, the experience you’re going to get as a fan is really remarkable. But I was also really taken by seeing all the players’ pictures. Again, that history and tradition of the Vikings is such a great history here,” he said. “You can feel it.”
He experienced some of the history walking alongside of him. Goodell toured the stadium with Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
Goodell credited the Wilf ownership group for their work in getting a new stadium in Minnesota, even as he talked about the communities like St. Louis, which lost the Rams to Los Angeles this year, and other communities that could see a franchise relocated to them, including Las Vegas as a possibility.
The Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, bided their time as owners of the team for nearly 10 years with one of the worst leases and venues in the NFL when the Vikings played in the Metrodome. Now sitting on that site is the palatial palace that is U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I’m incredibly impressed with (the Wilfs’) vision and they knew exactly what they wanted to do. Obviously there are ups and downs during that period of time. They were never deterred in reaching their vision. They worked through it,” Goodell said. “They were always committed 100 percent to it, and I think you’ve seen the effects of it, not just on the field, which is obviously important. They’re committed to building a championship team, but they built obviously a great facility here that I think is going to be a big part of this community and bring in events that everyone here will be incredibly proud of, including obviously the Super Bowl.”
The Super Bowl will be played at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2018, but on Sunday night the Vikings were starting the process of breaking in the stadium for the regular season and Goodell was impressed what he saw before the game.