Scott Ellison is the University of Minnesota’s associate athletic director for facilities, meaning he’s generally a pretty busy guy. Just as the Vikings’ temporary time at TCF Bank Stadium is coming to a close, several other projects are on the horizon. With that in mind, the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand caught up with Ellison this week:
Q What were some of the pluses and minuses of having the Vikings as a tenant these past couple of years?
A There weren’t a lot of minuses, other than the fact that we had 17 football games per year [Gophers and Vikings combined]. I don’t know if you want to call that a minus, but it was a lot of work for the event management staff and everyone on campus in general. The back-to-back games, no doubt, were a challenge. … We perfected it. We had six of them total. When it happens earlier in the year, it’s not bad. When you get closer to the winter months, the moisture and frost makes painting a lot harder. We had to wash off the collegiate marks and Gophers marks and paint on the Vikings marks, then flip it again. But everyone pulled together and got it done.
Q Will you miss this, both personally and professionally?
A That’s a good question. It’s 10 extra Sundays for me, personally. But I think I will miss it. I enjoy football in general, and I’m a huge Vikings fan. Growing up here in Minnesota through the Bud Grant era, it’s been a lot of fun to be around the program and to be involved with the Vikings’ crew.
Q What’s your impression of how outdoor Vikings football has gone?
A What I’ve seen from Vikings fans is they seem to really embrace the outdoors. I’m not saying they won’t enjoy going back into U.S. Bank Stadium because that’s going to be a fantastic facility, but they’ve really embraced it.
Q How much involvement will you have in the Athletes Village, which broke ground a couple of months ago?
A I’ll be the departmental lead on that project, so it will take up a lot of my time. … As far as construction is concerned, when we start digging footings in the spring, that will be a major milestone. You’ll probably see something that starts looking like an actual building come late summer or early fall.
Q Richard Pitino has said he likes Williams Arena but would like to see improvements. What can you do within that structure to make it better?
A I think one thing is widening the concourses and providing improved concessions experiences. We’re limited with our concourse in terms of what we can offer. It would be nice to provide additional traffic flow areas and improved concessions.
Q Soccer is a hot topic lately, and there’s a possibility that Minnesota United will start to play in Major League Soccer in 2017 before its new stadium is built. Have there been any preliminary talks about the possibility of United playing some games at TCF Bank Stadium that year?
A Yeah, there have been some preliminary talks, just trying to figure out if it’s possible. With the artificial turf it’s hard. That would be one consideration. And how do you flip the turf from soccer to football? That’s about as far as we’ve gotten.