If you think U.S. Bank Stadium is only for football, think again.
In fact, think 990 times again.
There are more than 1,000 events scheduled at the facility during the first few months, said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which oversees the stadium. Ten of those are Vikings games, two preseason.
What are all the others? Everything under the sun — or under the super-high-tech-plastic-that-passes-as-glass roof. The stadium has booked an international soccer game and big-ticket rock concerts that will draw crowds measured in the tens of thousands as well as birthday parties for groups as small as 25.
“We have seven club spaces, as well as the field,” Kelm-Helgen said. “The first three months, the stadium will be used virtually every day — with multiple events happening at the same time.”
The first few events have gotten the most attention, of course.
On July 23 and 24, an open house is expected to draw 100,000 curiosity-seekers enticed by a chance to get their first look at the new digs.
Then on Aug. 3, European soccer teams A.C. Milan and Chelsea are inaugurating the field (although they will refer to it as the “pitch”).
Next, the stadium gets to demonstrate its chops as a musical venue. Country music star Luke Bryan will take the stage Aug. 19, with heavy metal superstars Metallica on deck the next night.
And things are just getting started, Kelm-Helgen said.
“We’ll have monster truck rallies, motocross races and trade shows like the Home and Garden Show,” she said. “We have corporate meetings scheduled, conventions and fundraisers. And we’re booking weddings.”
As giddy as the newlyweds will be, perhaps no one will be as happy to see the stadium finally open as John Anderson, the longtime Gophers baseball coach. The field can be converted for baseball, and the Gophers can’t wait.
With Minnesota springs not particularly conducive to America’s pastime, the Gophers used to play early-season games in the Metrodome. When that closed, they were forced to head to warmer climates to find games, and they started racking up frequent flier miles faster than on-base-percentage stats.
“Last year, we played our first 21 games on the road,” Anderson said. “For the season, we played only 17 Division I games at home out of a total of 52 Division I games on our schedule.”
Not only is it harder to win on the road, he said, but it’s harder for players to keep up with their studies. Traveling also takes away practice time. Fans also lost opportunities to see the team play.
The Gophers are expecting to book about 15 spring games in the stadium, including an annual tournament with top teams from around the country.
“We’re excited about the chance to play there,” Anderson said. “It will be a big boost for our program.”
Small colleges are booking baseball games there, too, as are some high school teams. The Sports Facilities Authority is basically donating the time to the teams, Kelm-Helgen said.
The Minnesota State High School League also is looking forward to moving late fall tournaments indoors. It will get five rent-free dates for football and soccer playoffs.
“We’re very excited about these events being played in a world-class indoor venue, and we expect large crowds of fans who will be happy to pay high school prices at an NFL stadium,” league spokesman John Millea said.
Many of the Metrodome’s other regular events — including roller skating and running — also will return with better aesthetics.
“We have windows,” Kelm-Helgen said.