TCF Bank Stadium

Sid Hartman: If Gophers don't win games, stadium will lose its luster

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 23, 2011 - 4:23 PM

Fans will come when the place is new. But unless the team can succeed on the field, the building won't be enough to draw crowds down the road.

Former Gophers football coach Glen Mason, who played a big part in getting TCF Bank Stadium built, will be at Penn State working for the Big Ten Network when the Gophers open their new building against Air Force on Saturday.

There was not going to be a stadium unless a prime sponsor was secured. It was on a private airplane trip to Columbus, Ohio, to play golf that Mason actually persuaded Twin City Federal Chairman Bill Cooper to buy the naming rights for the stadium. And the local bank put up $35 million to get a lot of concessions on campus in addition to putting its name on the stadium. Mason did a lot of promoting to get the stadium built.

You have to give the most credit for the building of the stadium to University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks. Had he not gotten behind the push, the stadium would have never happened.

No doubt for $288.5 million, the school got one of the great stadiums in the country. Of course, it is the newest in the Big Ten and should be the best. Credit must be given to all those involved in designing the stadium, because they didn't miss a beat.

But believe me, the stadium will be an attraction for its first three or four years, and its 50,805 seats will be sold out for that time.

After that, it will be the same story as old Memorial Stadium, where there were a lot of empty seats when the Gophers didn't win.

The campaign to raise the money was great. The university had to raise $86 million, and it did that. There were 2,259 donors who also raised $859,000 for marching band scholarships and the band's facility within the stadium.

Yes, I was a big promoter of the move from Memorial Stadium to the Metrodome. And Lou Holtz proved that if you entertain the fans, they will come -- and the Dome was sold out most of the two years Holtz was Gophers coach.

Current Gophers coach Tim Brewster believes the new stadium will be a boon to recruiting. Time will tell if that will be true. I do think the stadium will help recruit local football stars. But I believe college recruiters from other schools could again point to bad late-fall weather here to persuade outstate athletes to go elsewhere. Gophers coaches could counteract that when they played in the Dome.

I still believe there should have been one stadium for both the Gophers and the Vikings, like there is in Pittsburgh for the Panthers and Steelers.

And we might lose the Vikings because there wasn't one stadium. Thanks to the Minnesota State Fair board for making sure that one stadium wasn't built on fair property adjacent to the university's farm campus.

But as always, the success of the new stadium will come down to "just win baby." No stadium ever has won a game.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

  • about this series

  • The Gophers return to campus with the opening of their new football stadium.

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