The first of 65,400 seats were installed in the new Minnesota Vikings stadium on Monday as fans and high school athletes looked on.
The teenagers’ gleeful reactions were a reminder that the fancy field won’t be used by just NFL players. Jacques Lyles, a junior at St. Paul Central High School and a wide receiver on the school’s football team, brimmed with unequivocal confidence about his team’s prospects for playing there in the 2016 state tournament. “Oh, yeah,” he said.
Next to him, Roseville Area High School senior Teddy Broxterman, a former football player turned baseball pitcher, laughed.
The Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority allowed Monday’s limited access to U.S. Bank Stadium to showcase the progress of construction, including installation of the first row of purple seats above the eastern end zone.
The $1.1 billion Minneapolis stadium is to open in less than a year, just in time for the 2016 NFL season.
The two high school athletes, who had played in the Metrodome, extolled the benefits of perfect indoor weather and the feel of the capacious new stadium, which nearly doubles the footprint of the Metrodome. “It feels like you will be able to fit a lot more people in here,” Lyles said.
The newly installed seats were about a dozen rows down from where Bob and Buddy Lingner, a father and son from St. Louis Park, will have season tickets.
Bob Lingner, a high school English teacher, checked them out. “I think we’ll have a good view of the game,” he said.
A purple seat will go into place every couple of minutes until they’re all set in April. General Superintendent Dave Mansell said the seats in the high-end suites will go in last.
For the 2018 Super Bowl, an extra seat will be added to each row to increase capacity.
Feeding fans’ passion
Among those at Monday’s event were longtime season ticket-holders who had purchased stadium-builder licenses at $500 to $9,500 a seat. Those fans then could buy season tickets. The Wilf family, the team’s owners, expects to raise $125 million from the sales.
Visitors had a similar reaction: The building is big and airy.
Among the fans trying out seats were 80-year-old Jerry Conlin and his family. He used to bus patrons from his Mounds Park Tavern on St. Paul’s East Side to the old Met Stadium in Bloomington. The family has had season tickets since the early 1960s.
Said Pat Conlin, his son: “After having them for that many years, we didn’t want to throw them away.”
Lingner said he has been a Vikings fan for decades. “It’s an extravagance for us,” he said. “I’m not a fat cat by any means, but you’ve got to spend money somewhere, and everything but food and shelter is a luxury.”
The team is paying $566 million toward the cost of the stadium. Taxpayers are covering $477 million.
Stadium construction is proceeding on schedule to the day. Behind the scenes, however, there is a dispute over $15 million between the MSFA and Mortenson, the company leading the construction. Mortenson recently filed a formal request for mediation over payments linked to construction change orders.
Buddy Lingner, wearing a Vikings Favre jersey, described the fan experience: “It’s very weird to be a Vikings fan. Every season ends the same way.”
But, he added, “it’s going to change in the new stadium.”