The vast majority of the 66,813 spectators had a joyous experience watching the Minnesota Vikings christen U.S. Bank Stadium with a tough 17-14 victory over the hated Green Bay Packers. For the purple-clad Minnesota fans fortunate to be inside the facility’s clubs, it was an unforgettable one.
Moments before the Vikings ran out the clock to begin the season 2-0, hundreds of patrons in the field-level Delta Sky 360 Club raced to the club’s corridor, which connects the field to the Minnesota locker room. Their victorious purple warriors soon trotted by extending high-fives and, in some cases, gifting sweaty gloves to be treasured souvenirs.
“This is unbelievable,” said John Strand as he reached over the railing separating fans from the players. “We brought friends with us and they were wide-eyed at the access. It’s football as close as you can be. It’s very special to be down here.”
David Neale wasn’t part of Strand’s contingent, but “wide-eyed” aptly describes his reaction.
“I’m in shock and in awe to be at field level,” he said. “It’s an amazing experience. This is something else.”
Clad in a Jared Allen No. 69 jersey, Carrie Gallo secured her spot along the player runway with a few minutes to spare.
“It’s OK if the players sweat on me,” she said with a smile. “I’m hoping for some high-fives and good pictures.”
Moments later, Gallo secured both and had an up-close view of a heart-warming moment as Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr gave his gloves to a little girl. Before Barr and the rest of his teammates were in the comfort of the locker room, Gallo excitedly flipped through her photos, pleased with her purple portraits.
All of the club patrons had assigned seats overlooking the Minnesota sideline. Many chose to descend one flight of stairs and spend the majority of the time at field level directly behind the Vikings’ bench. Players and TV cameras obstructed their view of game action, but the fans didn’t care. They could follow the plays on one of the stadium’s monster video screens while feeling the magnitude of the moment just yards away from their football heroes.
“It’s phenomenal,” said David Frechette, proudly wearing a vintage Tommy Kramer No. 9 jersey. “This experience is second to none. To be able to go back and forth from the stands to the field level is unbelievable.”
In addition to player proximity, food was a big attraction for the field-level portion of the 16,455 square-foot Delta Sky 360 Club. Fans feasted on much more than standard stadium food. Shrimp, oysters, steamed clams, and crab claws were stationed by an ice sculpture, featuring the two teams’ helmets. Those adverse to seafood enjoyed penne pasta or cheese and crackers. A bountiful supply of candy and caramel apples (with nuts) satisfied those with a sweet tooth.
Many of those same options, including baby kale salad and cranberry chicken salad, were available three levels higher in Mystic Lake’s Club Purple. Located in the northwest corner of the stadium, the 10,455 square-foot, lounge-like club featured fans relaxing on purple sofas as they enjoyed an amazing view of the field with food and drink in hand.
“We are pinching ourselves,” said Connie Sutton, who with her husband, Jeff, owns Am-Tec Designs, a company that completed some work for the new stadium. “We have been Vikings fans our whole lives and we decided to splurge to have this experience.”
While not seated on the plush sofas or the club’s nearby single seats, fans savored the outside deck, offering picturesque views of the Minneapolis skyline. Before the game, the deck was just as crowded as the inside portion of the club.
Jeff Mack, CEO of Cachet Financial, was one of the first arrivals in Club Purple about two hours prior to kickoff.
“This club is perfect to bring clients and prospective clients,” said Mack, who purchased an eight-seat sofa for the season. “You can go outside on the deck and then come back in and sit on a couch like you’re at home. And you get to enjoy all the complimentary food and drink that you want. It’s very casual.”
The plethora of fans in Viking garb, along with some Packers gold sprinkled in, proved Mack’s description of the atmosphere. Club Purple, just like the Delta Sky 360 Club isn’t for stiff collars and silk ties. Even a fan wearing a Christian Ponder jersey seems to be a better fit than an executive in a business suit.
Randy Hodel is the general manager of Roberts Hamilton Company, a plumbing and heating wholesale business. He purchased a 12-seat sofa, but on this night he resembled the typical fan, thanks to his John Randle No. 93 jersey.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said from his couch that moments later offered the perfect view of Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant blowing into the nearby Gjallarhorn. “You are out in the open sitting on a couch. It’s so comfortable. It’s first class all the way.”
Nearby the several rows of sofas, Vikings legend Carl Eller signed autographs. Many fans leaned on purple counters and nibbled on the gourmet food while others reached for the Cracker Jacks and peanuts in strategically placed buckets.
“This just wowed me,” said Kurt Karstein. “This is an elite club. I’ve been to suites in other venues, but this raises the bar.”
However, Karstein did have one tongue-in-cheek complaint as he surveyed the scene, moments before the roar of the crowd consumed his words. “These clubs should have a bouncer to throw out the people in green and gold!”