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
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Inside the Metropolitan Club. Classic photo of a youthful Bob Casey at far right. (Photo by Tyler Wycoff)
A detail from the above image shows that the section signage is now in place
The glare problem.
The bridge is Seventh Street.
I'm not sure why there's a wreath on Gate 3. (I quickly checked the headlines for any dreaded Killebrew news. Whew.) It looks to be in celebration, maybe of the move.
We'll be packed into the first five rows of section 136. Hey, Wilson! I'm bringing my glove!
This is amazingly close to completed. It's a short tunnel entrance ramp to 394 underneath the outfield stands.
He'll always be a fan favorite, but did you know that he's making $18.5 million this year? The Twins' entire outfield today, combined, makes $7.45 million.
An ice cream salad cone -- er, Walk-a-Taco
A few weeks ago there were sand volleyball courts here. When the park opens, this will be surface parking. Maybe one day there will be something more interesting built on top of that parking...
Signature elements. (And they wonder why we think the real trees look so small...)
Looking down what was Third Avenue, and will be a freeway entrance ramp beneath the outfield stands.
The visitor's clubhouse at Target Field. (Photo by Javen Swanson)
Nathan greeting the other pitchers on the all-Metrodome team (October 4, 2009)
Three weeks ago this was a patch of scruffy trees. Now it's a patio. In case you were wondering, that's where I've been...
The entrance at Gate 3.
If you are into shade, there are lots of opportunities. This is from the last row in section 108 -- scoreboard not blocked in the least.
Window area sketched by the limestone
Winter approaches. But one day baseballs will fly where now there are cranes.
Ballpark elevation viewed from the promenade (HERC plant) side. (Click to enlarge.)
Looking back toward the ballpark from Third Avenue and Fifth Street. Again, the track configuration is now clearly visible.
The Pantheon (with inset of the magic eye)
Close-up on the diagram of the Club Level with finishing materials (click to enlarge)
We took refuge for a time in the Twins Pub where you can drink a beer (or just hang out) and listen to some ballpark tunes. The organ is decorated with a TC (of course) and what looked like drawings which Sue has received from kids.
Staircase entrance. You cannot miss them.
Mound from the other side
This will be a great sight on game nights.
The Puckett Atrium
CBP: retro in facade only
Here's a first view of the surprisingly spacious walkway on Fifth between the ballpark and the LRT platform.