With the Minnesota Vikings' move to TCF Bank Stadium, the ever-bustling University of Minnesota area will be even louder and livelier this fall and winter.
"We're going to have pretty much a nonstop fall schedule of big events," said Jan Morlock, director of community relations at the campus.
But despite Vikings fans' reputation for being even rowdier than college students, the area is largely anticipating rather than dreading the onslaught. And it's eager to intercept what football teams and fans bring — money.
The NFL team will call the Bank home for two years as it awaits completion of its new $1 billion stadium. Ten Vikings home games will be played on Sundays at the university, in addition to the Gophers' games on Saturdays. "Part of the concern of neighbors is this doesn't give us any breaks," Morlock said.
Both the team and the U have put significant thought into trying to make sure Stadium Village, Dinkytown and West Bank businesses and residents can cope and benefit. The first true test comes Sept. 14, when the Vikings host the New England Patriots.
"We are concerned, but frankly, we went through all of this when the TCF Bank Stadium was built," said Ricardo McCurley, executive director of the Southeast Como Improvement Association. Overall, he said, his group expects things to go smoothly.
Even before the Vikings invasion, the neighborhood has endured extra traffic on some major streets and noise from the Bank. The Stadium Area Advisory Group convened by the university to air concerns about the Bank has been a great forum in which to raise concerns, McCurley said.
Based on the Aug. 8 preseason game, his early assessment is positive. At a Saturday event after that Friday night game, McCurley found the streets free of detritus. "We didn't see any aftermath that we had to deal with," he said.
An economic touchdown
The economic advantage will be felt by both the community and its businesses.
The Vikings have contributed $90,000 for each of the two years to the university's Good Neighbor Fund, as well as an additional $35,000 per year in in-kind donations. Neighborhoods apply for money and/or player appearances for projects.
The Southeast Como group received $25,900 for the Van Cleve Sports Equipment and Clinics aimed at attracting an increasingly diverse youth population to use parks and participate in sports clinics. Coupled with potential player appearances, the money is a big deal, McCurley said.
The West Bank Business Association received a $24,000 grant for a community garden at the Brian Coyle Community Center, as well as a portable stage for youth performances. And the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association received $42,500 to create signs to encourage use of the new Dinkytown Greenway.
The campus Office of Student and Community Relations received $15,000 for Project Lighthouse, to add lights to off-campus properties.
"We do want to be a good partner and a good neighbor," Vikings communications director Jeff Anderson said. He added that the team has agreed to cover the cost of extra police officers up to $100,000 for the season if the Minneapolis Police Department deems them necessary.
To prepare the temporary arena, the Vikings pumped $6.6 million into the Bank, adding 38 miles of pipe under new turf to heat the field and installing heaters in some seating areas and restrooms. The team added 130 points of sale for concessions and beer and increased from six to nine the number of gates for game entry. The stadium also got technology upgrades.
And the Vikings added seating, bringing the stadium's capacity to about 52,000, an addition of almost 2,000 seats.
There will be tents at some restaurants and outdoor gatherings, but official tailgating is relegated to the parking areas at the State Fairgrounds.
Smorgasbord of choices
When it comes to dining out, Vikings fans will have many more options than they're accustomed to near the Metrodome. The multiethnic buffet will include multiple types of pizza, burgers, subs and chicken wings as well as restaurants featuring Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican and U.S. pub fare.
The Vikings worked with the Stadium Village Commercial Association to develop maps to promote businesses.
The My Burger restaurant in Stadium Village is festooned with a cheeky banner that reads, "Welcome Vikings fans! (We also welcome non-Vikings fans but keep it under your hat, will ya? It's game day.)"
Around the corner, the sign at Campus Pizza reads, "Show us your Vikings pride." Another says the restaurant is hiring cooks, dishwashers and other workers for game days. Manager Dave Koch said the restaurant will double the usual gameday seating.
And "we set up an extra bar and two beer tubs," Koch said. The eatery also made an arrangement with its distributor for delivering beer on demand. "We don't have enough room to hold enough beer," he said. "It's a lot of extra product, and then you've got all that ice."
Molly Watkins, now studying physical therapy at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, came back to the university last week to study at her favorite library. She said the area is much more vibrant now than it was when she lived in Stadium Village a few years ago.
The Vikings' arrival "will bring revenue and noise," she said. "I think it will be good to keep that area populated."