The only real way to undo a Great Wrong is with a Great Right.
That is exactly what's going on right now at the University of Minnesota. The Great Wrong of sequestering football off campus in a hermetically-sealed, shared concrete tub for more than a generation is being met with a Great Right in the form of TCF Bank Stadium, an incredibly beautiful place, and a very welcome sight for very sore football eyes.
It's hard to believe what I'm about to say, but this place might actually be able to turn me back into a Gopher football fan. I may be on the verge of buying a maroon and gold sweatshirt.
Having followed its development only from a distance (I'm rather occupied with watching another facility, as you know), I hadn't spent much time preparing for what I might see today. But it's safe to say that I am officially blown away. It's hard to know where to begin.
So I'll begin where Gopher games can now begin for a lot of folks: tailgating. The day was beautiful, the atmosphere was joy-filled, the colors covered everything. There are lots of lots. Who could possibly resist this?
Parking was leisurely, and we didn't encounter any traffic to speak of as we approached. That will be different on game day, but the layout of premium parking seemed to be conducive to smooth flow. It's plentiful and very well thought out (though some of the access roads we used to get to the Northstar lot are still unpaved).
Approaching and entering from the north, the stadium really feels like Memorial Stadium's grandchild. There's enough similarity to bring a sense of recognition, but enough difference to see that this is something wonderfully new.
Large staircases, a staple of recent Populous (nee HOK) projects, are all over the place.
Today's scrimmage was merely a chance to get some fans in and test a few systems. There was nowhere near a full house. A crowd of 30,000 was expected, but I'd estimate it at far less than that. The capacity is about 50,000, and it never looked more than about a third full. Still, the extremely spacious concourses were buzzing.
This is very early in the day.
This is during halftime.
Thanks to my two hosts, Red (who provided premium seats at the 50-yard line) and Kirk (who provided a 4-person Loge Box), we got to see portions of the scrimmage from two distinctly different vantage points. Which you prefer is pretty much a matter of taste (and budget). And as we walked around, it was clear that there are views to match any preference -- and many different budgets.
The view from our Loge Box
Here's an idea of what these Loge Boxes are all about. That guy is a waiter with no fans to serve. They seemed to have one server for about every four boxes.
That's Noah and my brother, Chris, checking out the Loge Box amenities
The Loge (pronounced "lodge" by the staff) Box has access to an indoor area and has the benefit of shade and cover. It's kind of like sitting at the top of the stands with a big warming area right behind you.
You can also order food from the menu and have it delivered right to the box, running a tab throughout the game. And during halftime, or if you just want to have a little conversation, you can also retreat to the DQ Club, which is spacious and luxurious.
Hey! That limestone looks familiar!
Our other seats, in section 210, were in the premium seating area on the opposite side. The view is equally great, feeling more intimate with the action than the Loge Boxes. You also have the benefit of sunshine, which will be a very good thing as the season progresses. The seats are comfortable, with plenty of leg room, and superb sight lines.
The view from section 210
Noah is checking out the ample leg room and truly exemplary sight lines.
Auxiliary scoreboard (note to TF principles: this is a very good idea)
There were no tours available, so we were limited to the public areas, but that was still a lot to see. We made our way all the way around the main concourse level, and when it was time to leave, we even made it as far as you can go around the very upper walkway.
I have a lot more pictures to show you, so we'll continue this tomorrow night (when I will select one, maybe two, photos of a cheerleading squad which looked totally ready for gameday, unlike the team, which appears to still be shaking off the summer rust).
The alumni band sounded great.
In the fall of 1981, as the Gophers began their last season in Memorial Stadium, I was a freshman at the U, living as a border at the Deke house (next to Newman Center, right at University and 17th Ave SE). I'll never forget the parade down University Avenue to the stadium, or the unbelievable din which filled the Field House, or the way in which the whole pulse of the campus became Homecoming-centric during that week.
Homecoming was never the same after the team left campus. The pulse didn't change that much, except for those directly involved in preparing for the festivities. It didn't draw in everyone like it had, and never again had that infectious quality which I witnessed in my first fall on campus.
I remember at the time being somewhat indifferent to the Gophers' move (while I was hopeful, but a little apprehensive, for the Twins). Like many (though definitely not all) Gopher fans, I was more or less accepting of what the decision-makers were telling us: that the energy would not change, that the Dome was just as close to the campus as Memorial Stadium, that indoor football would be a boon to the University.
It didn't take 28 years to figure it out, but now we can say it clearly and without reservation: They were wrong. Really, truly, deeply wrong.
(In their defense, briefly, the financial forces were so strong that it may have been impossible to resist. But dammit, they should have. I think that even they knew they were selling their souls, but had to put as good a face on it as possible.)
Yes, son, Memorial Stadium used to be right there, just beyond those gates.
Even though today's event was a meaningless scrimmage, as the team first took the field, and the band once again filled a horseshoe-shaped bowl on the campus with the beloved Rouser, and we all sang with gusto and spelled out M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A in our loudest maroon & gold voices, it felt to me like there hadn't been a Gopher football game in 28 years.
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3019 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Here's a rack of lights being prepared for lifting into the canopy.
Puckett atrium menu part 1
I never think of Rod Carew as a first baseman. But he was.
Auxiliary scoreboard (note to TF principles: this is a very good idea)
Indications that club seating (the wider spaced areas above each dugout) will be a major presence in the lower deck
The splendid view from the roof of the Minikahda building. (Click to enlarge greatly.)
Circulation ramps: Wrigley (classic, integrated) and Kauffman (modern, external)
What has been actually built so far is only a tiny subset of this vision.
Pawlenty makes it official!
This is the staircase (ramp?) leading up to the trapezoid. Nice flagpole too. You'll be able to find me and Ben McEvers at the base of that flagpole on opening day in 2010!
The visitor's clubhouse at Target Field. (Photo by Javen Swanson)
I know you've seen this, but I can't get enough of it.
That's Jacque Jones looking up in awe at the Great Greenness.
Home Plate Box, Section 111, Row 8 or 9-ish (Click to enlarge greatly.)
Hit gap, win suit!
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
I was surprised at how close those upper deck seats seem. From the plaza, you feel like you can reach out and touch them. It really adds to the impression of overall compactness.
A view into the Legend's Club
September 23, 2007
Mary Larson (left), a music teacher from Maple Grove, was a TwinsFest SSB winner and got to sing the anthem before the game.
Plaza overview from the A ramp
Franchise history before Minnesota. (Click to enlarge.)
This was actually taken from the top floor of the International Market Square.
Look beyond the gigantic hand (a hounds tooth jacket? really?) and you'll get a glimpse of the main grandstand configuration. The two (or is it three?) levels of suites are visible, as is the design of the so-called "split upper deck," and the extensive use of limestone for decorative accents. Let's hope these little touches don't get cut as costs increase, because they make a nice tie-in from the outside of the park to the inside. Of most interest to me is the way that the very best seats are physically separated from all the rest of the seats by that limestone. There will be virtually no way to sneak into these seats. On one level, that's a somewhat sad design feature...
Work in progress to improve the streetscape on Second Avenue
Frost on the pumpkins, snow on the plaza
At one point, we thought these windows might represent one of the so-called knotholes. But nope. Nothing to see here. (Nearest I can tell, there will be no view of the playing field whatsoever from the Seventh Street sidewalk.)