The true benefits of the new Metro Green Line, the light rail connecting downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, will develop over time thanks to the patterns of dedicated users — not based on one weekend of use from curiosity seekers.
That said, having given it a spin on Sunday (along with my wife and 11-week-old daughter for the full experience), I’m confident in predicting a few things about the Green Line as it pertains to sports:
• First and foremost, it’s fantastic that almost every major stadium in the metro area is or will be accessible from the train. Target Field (Twins), Target Center (Wolves and Lynx) and the Dome (RIP)/new Vikings site were already served by the existing Blue Line, but now folks coming from the East can reach those destinations as well.
Almost every Gophers facility, including Mariucci Arena, Williams Arena and TCF Bank Stadium, can be accessed by multiple stops on the new line. Keep riding from Minneapolis all the way to downtown St. Paul, and you can get to a Wild game at Xcel Energy Center (the Central Station stop seemed to be the closest to the X; it’s a 10-minute walk, which in winter is not perfect but is hardly impossible.) Next year, the new Saints ballpark in downtown St. Paul will be well within reach, too.
This is a wonderful feeling if you dislike traffic, parking and other gameday hassles. These facilities are also served by bus routes, but there is a certain big-city feel and camaraderie when it comes to riding a train to a game, not to mention the reliable regularity of the schedule.
• The biggest game-changer (pun intended?) is being able to get to the U of M campus on the Green Line. The logistics of vehicle traffic and parking on campus are hit-or-miss, and the critical mass only figures to swell with the Vikings playing there for two years. There is a stop that is basically front-door service at TCF Bank Stadium. It took me 35 minutes to get to it, and I started at the 38th Street Station on the Blue Line. This is something I can easily picture doing again, with a family.
• The inevitable temptation will be to attempt some great rail-based doubleheaders — for example, Twins/Gophers football (perhaps Sept. 6 or 20, depending on Gophers home game times) — on those days when one team plays in the afternoon and another plays at night. Just note that it does take time to get places. Our Green Line train left the Downtown East station at 11:12 a.m. Sunday and reached the end of the line in St. Paul 52 minutes later.
Plan accordingly, and don’t be afraid to hop off at a couple places to break up the ride along the way. If Green Line bar crawls weren’t the reason for this massive project, they at least figure to be a glorious bonus for thirsty sports fans.