Zamberletti's Stadium Idea Better Than 'Fair'

As the Vikings search for options to replace the Metrodome as their home stadium, longtime trainer-consultant Fred Zamberletti has an in-depth idea for a multi-use stadium on the State Fairgrounds.

Fred Zamberletti has never missed a Vikings game in the franchise's 42-year history. One thing the longtime head trainer, now a senior advisor, has taken mental notes on during this time is the venues in which the Vikings have played.

Some have been good, some bad, some average.

In noting these things, Zamberletti thinks he has a pretty good idea of what type of stadium would work for the Vikings — and just as importantly where the retractable-roof facility could be located.

So while officials at the State Fairgrounds in Arden Hills, Minn., already have dismissed the idea of housing a football stadium that would be shared by the Vikings and Gophers, Zamberletti thinks it would be the perfect location. "This is non-political," he said. "It doesn't benefit either downtown Minneapolis or downtown St. Paul. It would be unlike any other facility in the country, like the Mall of America."

And like the multipurpose Mall of America — which resides on the grounds that housed the Vikings' first home, Metropolitan Stadium, in Bloomington — Zamberletti's proposal would call for much more than a football stadium to be built on the fairgrounds. A portion of the stadium also could be used as an amphitheater, where concerts could be performed under the stars during the summer.

Zamberletti's plan would involve cleaning up the grandstand, taking advantage of the parking that exists and keeping prices of tickets and food reasonable so families could enjoy the stadium. Zamberletti has plenty of other ideas, such as … well, why not let him tell it.

"We could have something in Minnesota that would be better than any place in the nation," he said. "This would eliminate the stadium problems for the Gophers and Vikings, the Symphony Summer theater, the State Fair grandstand and the Black Dog site (In October, the city of Bloomington appealed a judge's decision to allow plans to proceed for an outdoor amphitheater in neighboring Burnsville).

"So, not only would it be for the interest of just pro sports and college sports, but it would be something for the fairgrounds and it would be something for the arts community.

"My suggestion of what they should do is look where the grandstand is now and if possible try to use just the outside structure. Sandblast it, clean it up, so we have got the memory of the grandstand. It would be handicap accessible. You would turn that into a giant stadium club on the day of games.

"Today, it's in such terrible condition. You could afford to spend money (to fix it) because so many people would be using it. Not just 10 or 15 days of the State Fair — and the Gophers and Vikings home date would not conflict with the fair.

"With the stadium club on the day of games, you could have giant TV screens in there. So when, say, the Gophers play, they could have their reunions where they would be showing the '39 Gophers, the '36 national champions and all that. The Gophers have a rich history that should never be forgotten. The fairgrounds also would be able to use this for small trade shows. It would be very convenient with parking.

"They could turn the opening of that up and make it kind of a beverage garden before the game. The nice things about that, too, is with the location I would get (noted local special-events organizer) Paul Ridgeway to be a consultant of traffic control. You get these team buses bringing all the players in. Take those buses, turn them around and use that back way that has been designed for the State Fair and give the buses motorcycle escorts.

"I would go back over, pick up the band, bring the band in and also shuttle the students back and forth from campus. Just think of the students getting on there, getting a police escort like we get as a team, bring them in that back way. We could get more students there.

"If you are having a winning season have a street dance after the game. If you are having a mediocre season I would have it before to stir up interest.

"The tailgating where the carnival rides are set up is tremendous. You can tailgate all the way around there. You could tailgate over where the St. Paul Saints are (at Midway Stadium) and again have Ridgeway set up shuttles to bring people over to the fairgrounds.

"Another thing I would put in there is Las Vegas (or tight) security. I would use the parking attendants who are collecting the money — they ordinarily would be hired for two or three hours — I would hire them on a full-shift day. I would hire people who are capable of being on ground security during the game when the cars are parked out there. Also, those people would help fans get out of there after the game.

"We learn from experience. I have been to so many stadiums over the years and seen it. The city of Bloomington had a big impact in losing the Vikings out there because they did such a poor job of not getting the traffic out after the game. They got you in, but after the game it was terrible.

"With this Las Vegas security I would have it designed so that inside the stadium we would have video cameras of any rowdiness. Not only inside, but also in the parking lot. I would assure with this security that the neighborhoods are going to be safe.

"I would then have the University of Minnesota band when they come in going through the parking lots playing. So things would be going on. I truly believe if this facility were to be built it would be a model that other cities would want to emulate."

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