Fans are expected to fill TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota on Saturday for the big football game between the Gophers and the Badgers.
But on Wednesday, the only thing filling the stadium seating area was snow — and it needed to be removed.
How? Lots of people with shovels.
The company that has the contract to clean the stadium put out a call after the snowstorm for extra help shoveling, in need of 450 to 600 people. Students on holiday break, those looking to earn extra holiday cash and people who simply needed a job showed up.
Thomas Bagnoli, 18, a student at St. Paul Academy, had the day off school and could not pass up the chance to earn $14 an hour — some extra cash for the holidays.
“I want those going to the game to be rowdy,” he said. “And I want them to have good seats.”
Working in four-hour shifts, men and women of all ages shoveled row by row. They lifted snow piles onto plastic tarps and watched them roll down to field level. From there, front-end loaders pushed the snow to the east end zone where trucks hauled it away.
Once a majority of the snow in a section is clear, workers come through with hoses, spraying hot water to melt any snow and ice left behind.
“It’s a highly orchestrated operation,” said Tom Flanagan, vice president of operation for Marsden Stadium, the company that holds the contract for cleaning the Gophers’ home stadium.
It’s also hard work, said Melvin Stout, of St. Paul, who was glad he had his hand warmers as he removed snow from Row 15 in Section 209. He said he came to shovel because he’s a big Gophers fan.
“I’ll be at the game rooting them on,” he said.
As a bonus, some of those shoveling got to see the team practice — and a shoutout from Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck.
He stopped practice, interrupted the holiday music playing over the public address system and grabbed a microphone to speak to the shovelers.
“Thank you for all you do to clear the stadium,” Fleck said. “It means a lot to this team.”