TCF Bank Stadium will be the joint home of the Gophers and Vikings for the next two seasons, and that time is arriving quickly. The Vikings have their first preseason game Friday, and on Wednesday afternoon we got a look at the field as it was being prepared for the Vikings as well as a chance to chat with Scott Ellison, the Gophers Associate AD in charge of facilities. Here are some of the takeaways:
*Beer. It’s on everyone’s mind. Vikings fans are known for their thirst, and TCF Bank Stadium will accommodate them as best it can. There will be beer sales throughout the stadium for Vikings games. For Gophers games, there will be fewer points of sale than for Vikings games, but still far more than there were last year (though not in the student section), when sales were concentrated in the end zone concourse now occupied by additional bleacher seats. Beer sales for both the Vikings and the Gophers will go through the third quarter; that’s a change from how it was with the Gophers last year, when they were done at the end of halftime.
*Those additional bleacher seats increased capacity by 1,720, Ellison said, bringing total capacity at the stadium to just over 52,000. Those seats will be sold for Gophers games, too. Before you make jokes about them not needing those seats, note that they have Iowa on the schedule in 2014, while Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska are here in 2015. Also, there remains the chance, despite generations of history to the contrary, that the Gophers will be legitimately good this season and be a hot ticket.
*The end zones and midfield were already painted and showing off Vikings colors/logos Wednesday, creating an interesting juxtaposition to an otherwise largely maroon and gold stadium. Ellison said there will be additional things done to the stadium to give it a Vikings feel on pro gamedays. The idea is to make it feel like their home stadium, not just a borrowed college stadium.
*Crews started working on installing new turf immediately after the Gophers’ spring game in order to put a heating element on the field. Ellison said that involves “38 miles of plastic tubing underneath the field” that circulates a solution to heat the field. The heating element and new turf was installed for $2.5 million, paid for by the Vikings, and will remain after the Vikings move into their new home in 2016.
*A big test will come this weekend since the Gophers have a scrimmage Saturday. Crews will scrub and re-paint the field in Gophers colors and with college hashmarks. They’ll have to do it with even more urgency on Oct. 11 and 12, when the Gophers play a home game against Northwestern followed by a Vikings home game against the Lions.