The day after the first big event at U.S. Bank Stadium, the overriding complaint about how it went could be captured in one word: Lines.
The longest ones — if a throng of people packed shoulder to shoulder can be called a line — formed on light-rail platforms outside the downtown Minneapolis stadium after Wednesday night’s sold-out professional soccer match, which drew 64,101 fans.
Riders sweated out the long wait for a train on the steamy night, then shoved and crunched into rail cars. Metro Transit reported that the last fan left the platform 90 minutes after the end of the match.
Complaints flowed on social media. In one sassy tweet, Kris Lien wrote: “Number of times I will take the light rail after a game at @usbankstadium = 0.”
Anger over transit was the biggest complaint, but there were others, too.
While the gleaming new stadium drew praise, its concourses were often left jam-packed with people waiting in line at food stands, sometimes only to find that vendors ran out of food.
For instance, Revival ran out of its celebrated fried chicken only 20 minutes into the match.
By Thursday, reactions to the criticism revealed the extent to which the big event was in many ways a test.
The crowding and the lines were referred to as symptoms of the uneven debut of a building that just a year ago didn’t have a single purple seat in place. Everyone vowed that next time, things would go more smoothly.
Adam Duininck, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit, apologized “to the customers who were inconvenienced last night, but I have every bit of confidence that Metro Transit will be better prepared for the next event.”
Trains, shuttle buses added
Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said the system actually performed well, with record ridership for a special event.
More than 13,700 fans took light-rail trains to the match — the most since the trains began special-events service to concerts and Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins and Golden Gophers games.
“The laws of physics tell you that you are not going to put 13,000 fans on trains and get them out of there in 10 minutes,” Padilla said. “A few minutes can seem more than a few minutes in situations like this. But this was 13,000 more people not jammed in traffic or in parking ramps that got to their destination. That met our goal.”
Metro Transit prepared for the postmatch rush by adding eight extra trains and using every car in its fleet on both the Blue and Green lines. Most trains had three cars, but some had two, Padilla said.
Metro Transit also added 18 buses to shuttle train riders back to park-and-ride lots, just as it does for Vikings games. But it appeared that some fans weren’t aware of the bus option.
Padilla talked about potentially having trains run closer together and providing better information, but it wasn’t clear how much wait times could be shortened.
Even on Metro Transit’s swiftest day of service after a Vikings game at TCF Bank Stadium, it took 60 minutes to clear the platforms.
Fans want more food, faster
Food lines might be the easier fix.
Revival sold 1,200 pieces of chicken, or 600 portions. Andrew Zimmern’s eponymous stadium canteens sold 600 pounds of lamb, leaving only French fries on the menu.
Fans reported numerous other food service difficulties. Some couldn’t find the craft brews. The lines were too long, the concourses too crowded.
Revival’s co-owners, Nick Rancone and Thomas Boemer, felt the glowering of the fans facing 40-minute waits for chicken. The message from them and others running the stadium show: We will get better.
Or, as Rancone described the operation: “It’s all theoretical until you have 500 people waiting for chicken.”
Other fans reported trouble finding knowledgeable staffers to direct them to their seats.
‘Everybody was walking’
Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen was familiar with that complaint. But she pointed out that the first event — and most likely those in coming weeks — is unusual.
Fans are coming to the building for the first time, arriving early to roam rather than taking their seats. That leads to congestion on the concourses, both from food lines and those just trying to get by.
“What we have talked about and assessed is, last night was fairly unusual. A lot of people came at 6,” Kelm-Helgen said. “People weren’t sitting; everybody was walking.”
She denied that there were shortages of other foods or craft beers.
Two experienced companies run the stadium. SMG is the operator and Aramark runs the concessions.
Kelm-Helgen declined to allow direct access to the managers of those companies. “We’re just handling press through me,” she said.
The building’s next test will come Aug. 19, when Luke Bryan plays a concert. Metallica will take the stage the following day.
The Vikings will play their first preseason game on Aug. 28. The team has been bringing season-ticket holders to the building to acclimate them and to help them find their seats, parking and gates.
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