It’s the border battle, a supposed great rivalry where Green Bay Packers fans in gold and green invade U.S. Bank Stadium to puncture the sea of predominantly purple worn by Minnesota Vikings fans.
“I’ve wanted to see this game for so long,” said Tesla Chester, a Wisconsin native and Packers fan who now lives in Finlayson. Wearing a green tutu with her Packers jersey and cap, she held a can of Bent Paddle beer that a stranger had tossed to her. She said she scored lower-level seats online for $100 each and brought along her brother. “This stadium is beautiful. It’s amazing.”
The full house of 66,848 at U.S. Bank Stadium offered an opportunity for Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee members to do laps around the concourses and check the operation. The same was true for Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) officials who are, again, under scrutiny because of the recent firing of Monterrey Security for poor performance and the transfer of the stadium security contract to Whelan and G4S.
Fans appeared to pose few if any security problems on this crisp, bright fall Sunday. The building was full of air and energy early. But the injury to Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers deflated the crowd’s intensity, and the Vikings went on to win 23-10.
Because of the approaching Super Bowl, Vikings home games are as significant off the field as on it. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attended Sunday but declined to make himself available to reporters.
Mike Vekich, chairman of the MSFA, was watching the crowds, not the game, as he roamed the immense building with staff. “We’re seeing people happy. We’re not seeing lines backed up,” he said.
Behind him, no one waited in line at two newer beer stands. (Helpful hint: If there’s a line at a concessions stand, keep walking and one without a wait will soon appear.)
Most significantly, Vekich said the security handoff from Monterrey had been smooth. “It was as seamless as I could have expected,” he said.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the new firms did a nice job in their first game two weeks ago with only five days to prepare, and they got better on Sunday.
“There seems to be more vigilance, more of a focus on fan screening and overall security,” he said. “We’re pleased, but there’s always room for improvement.”
The team, stadium security and operator SMG meet to debrief immediately after every game. Bagley said no significant incidents have been reported.
Fans didn’t seem worried at all.
“If anything, that sends a good message,” said Rick Frith of New Brighton. The abrupt switch meant stadium operators were on top of a problem and willing to take serious action, even in midseason.
Frith had his 9-month-old son, Reid, strapped to his chest. The two wore matching purple gear. Reid had a knit cap with Vikings horns. Mom Carrie Frith was in green. The couple has had rules since before they were married: No taunting. No cheering for injuries to the opponent. They agreed their daughters would be raised Packers fans; their sons would wear purple. (It’s three boys and one girl so far.)
It’s all fun. “We’ve never seen it get too tense,” Rick Frith said.
Before the game, in the Commons park, a cover band played “Dancing in the Dark” and “Maneater.” A few blocks away, the Vikings’ Skol Line pounded their drums for happy fans. Friends and couples of mixed purple vs. green loyalties wandered through tailgating lots with the scent of grilled burgers and brats wafting through the air.
Stacie U’Ren of Denver rolled up to the game and tumbled out of a friend’s brand-new custom purple Jeep Wrangler. “She’s supposed to have horns on it, but they haven’t come in it,” she said of the ride.
Sasha Henry and Matt Mylan of Phoenix had flown in for the game. “We had to see the Goliath stadium,” said Henry, a Minnesota native sporting a long purple velvet coat and Vikings earrings. They shook off security worries like everyone else. “It’s in the back of your mind a little bit,” Mylan said. “But you can’t let it concern you.”
Even a Minneapolis police officer joined the rivalry while stationed on a closed road in front of the stadium’s giant western glass doors. Of passing Packer fans, Sgt. Mark Klukow would politely inquire, “Did you need help finding the stadium?”
The consistent response, he said, was a puzzled pause followed by a laugh.