The Minnesota Vikings won't kick off another NFL season for a good six months, but already, Minneapolis officials are making plans for Season 2 of the great "railgating" experience.
The experiment, pitched by Mayor R.T. Rybak as an alternative to more traditional tailgating at Vikings home games, was launched in September to encourage fans to get off the couch, hop the light rail and head downtown to eat, drink and party along a three-block stretch of 5th Street leading to the Metrodome.
The goal, Rybak has said, is to "add more sizzle" to pre-game festivities around the Metrodome in anticipation of the opening of a new Vikings stadium on the site in 2016.
Nearly 1 in 5 fans attending home games travels to the stadium, located in one of the NFL's most urban settings, by light rail. That number is projected to jump to 1 in 4 by 2016.
Railgating debuted Sept. 23 -- before the team's second home game -- with 13 food trucks alongside the light-rail tracks on 5th Street.
The number jumped to 18 the next week before slipping to three on Dec. 9 and again Dec. 30 in the season finale against Green Bay.
Cold weather -- most trucks weren't winterized -- was blamed for the dropoff, yet even with the late-season slide, city officials consider the experiment a success. Roughly 30 mobile vendors had licenses to do business in the city when railgating started. By season's end, that number doubled.
Linda Roberts, district supervisor for the city's Licenses and Consumer Services Department, attributes "the interest and positive energy around railgating" for the spike.
Chuck Lutz, city development chief, said city officials will tweak the concept next season with an aim toward working more with Warehouse District restaurants to ensure they are part of the experience.
He said the city hopes to open it up to vendors for all Vikings games, preseason included.
"What it did," Lutz said, "was it gave fans more food options."
Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425