U.S. Bank Stadium passed a sold-out stress test with fans maxing out the capacity of the cavernous building for the first major sporting event Wednesday night.
The operation wasn’t flawless, but nobody expected it would be. Many of the biggest things went well: The air inside was cool and fresh despite the staggering August heat outside. The 64,101 fans were mostly in their purple seats by the start of the game.
Judging from the cheers for the first goal, some people even paid attention to what was happening on the grass at the center of it all. But there was no doubt the building was the night’s MVP, with guests coming to see what can be built in 30 months with $1.1 billion. The consensus seemed to be: an impressive stadium.
Teresa and Shawn Nilsson of St. Paul are afficionados of sporting venues who will swing by a stadium when they’re on vacation elsewhere. “It’s fun that we have one that measures up,” Teresa Nilsson said of the new building.
The couple reported hits and misses: They were in a line some 50-people deep for nachos. A pile of nachos sold for $9 and fans didn’t seem to mind the wait. But Shawn Nilsson wasn’t able to eat his previously purchased hot dog. “I went to four condiment stations and they were all out of ketchup,” he said.
The couple came early and parked at a meter across the street for $7, they said. No problem there.
The foot traffic on the concourses wasn’t smooth. The walkway got congested at points where there were popular concession stands. The line for craft brews was long. Unofficial reports said Revival was the most popular; it ran out of its signature chicken. Hamburger shortages were reported elsewhere.
Brisk ticket sales for the relatively insignificant match between Chelsea and AC Milan belied the years of public divide and political debate over construction of the building. Nearly a decade of discussions led to $498 million in public money going into the building. Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf covered the remainder of the cost.
Behind the scenes, staff for the Vikings and the stadium operators assessed everything.
Vikings communications director Jeff Anderson said that while the congestion on the concourses is a concern, “this first event, you have that moment of coming in and saying, ‘Whoa’ and getting your bearings. Our fans have never seen anything like this.”
The Vikings play in the new building on Aug. 28. While the soccer match tested the building’s functions and capabilities, purists consider the true debut to be Sept. 18, when the Vikings will play host to the Green Bay Packers in the first regular-season home game.
And it’s going to be loud — louder than the Metrodome. The relatively subdued soccer crowd hit 108 decibels. The Vikings hit 118 in the Metrodome and 115 at TCF Bank Stadium. Based on those calculations, Vikings staff say they expect the roar to surpass 120 at their games. They call that a home-field advantage.