The Twin Cities Marathon and 10-mile runners aren’t likely to find refuge before their races at U.S. Bank Stadium the way they did at the Metrodome.
When the annual races were held last weekend, runners were locked out of the $1.1 billion facility that Gov. Mark Dayton has called “the people’s stadium” — even though the stadium’s main tenant, the Vikings, were playing in Philadelphia.
Mike Logan, president of Twin Cities in Motion, which organizes the marathon, said that staffers discussed race-day access to the stadium with building manager SMG and the Vikings.
However, he said, they “determined the available space inside the stadium would not accommodate needs, and the requirement for all stadium entrants to undergo a security screening made using the stadium impractical.”
Logistically, Logan said, it would be difficult to get more than 20,000 participants in and out of the secured stadium on tight timelines, he said. Anyone who uses the stadium, including employees and the 12,000 Catholic schoolchildren who visited on Wednesday, must pass through metal detectors and undergo bag checks.
“While everyone involved really wanted to make access a possibility, the safety of our runners, volunteers, staff and spectators comes first,” he said.
Since U.S. Bank Stadium opened in August 2016, runners haven’t been allowed inside the building to stay warm, dry or relieve themselves. That’s a contrast to the Metrodome which, before it came down in January 2014, provided a free and toasty haven for many of the 20,000-plus runners downtown for the predawn race start.
During the 2016 and 2017 marathon weekends, the Vikings had home games. That meant the building had to be locked down long before the games for preparation and NFL security rules. This was the first year since U.S. Bank opened that the Vikings were away during the marathon.
Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chairman Michael Vekich said that “safety and security is extremely important to us.” He pointed out that only a fraction of the 20,000 runners at the start would use the building anyway, since some prefer to stay outside and others have access to offices or homes.
Vekich said cost was an issue for marathon organizers because they would have to pay for security staff and cleaning crews to be on duty. An MSFA spokeswoman said the estimated cost to the marathon was $10,230.
Although runners and race organizers didn’t get into the stadium, Vekich said their request was granted for access to outdoor plazas as well as surface parking spaces. Those uses, he said, comply with the “civic minded” purpose of the $1.1 billion building, which was funded with almost $500 million in taxpayer money.
Marathon organizers provided water and set up more than 300 portable restrooms near the stadium on the western plaza and The Commons park, Logan said.
Heightened security also was in place for the race expo in the days before the marathon at St. Paul’s RiverCentre, where runners had to pass through magnetometers to pick up their race packets and shop. Logan said the RiverCentre policy was new this year.
“The unfortunate reality of the world we live in today, compared to when the Metrodome was available, is that safety and security requires a higher level of consideration which is impacting all large-scale events, whether they be stadiums or public venues,” Logan said.
Runners who like an indoor start can head to the Fargo Marathon in May, which is based in the Fargodome football arena with minimal security. The race draws up to 10,000 runners.
“We start inside and we finish inside,” Fargo Marathon director Mark Knutson said.
Knutson ran the 10-mile race in the Twin Cities on Sunday and waited outside for the start like everyone else.
“It sure would have been nice to warm up inside U.S. Bank Stadium but it’s a different animal, I guess,” he said.
Twin Cities runners can take some solace that dates soon will be announced for indoor running and in-line skating at U.S. Bank during the winter, a spokeswoman said.