Vikings fans from near and far flooded downtown Minneapolis Sunday for what many were calling a “historic day.”
“This is history. We can’t do this again. The opening of a brand new stadium, the best in the NFL. Today I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else,” Frank Frick from Syracuse, N.Y. said three hours before game time.
Karl Berry a Vikings fan from Birmingham, Ala., was visiting Minneapolis for the first time with his uncle from Connecticut for the special occasion. Other fans from Arizona, New Jersey and even London were mixed into the Twin Cities crowd that was eager to see the Vikings open up the stadium against rival Green Bay.
Fans started arriving early Sunday, but the official celebration began around 3 p.m. with the opening of the Vikings Village and The Commons Park outside of the stadium. Fans with or without tickets were entertained by live bands, the SKOL Line and Vikings cheerleaders.
Chicago Ave. was flooded with purple as fans wandered the street enjoying pregame activities and a drink.
Tailgating lots were crammed with fans happy to still have room near the new stadium for pregame parties. In one lot nicknamed the “Belly of the Beast” the scene felt more like a night club with a DJ blaring music and hyping up the should-to-shoulder crowd. Whenever Green Bay fans wandered into the space he heckled them. One tailgater yelled “This is a Vikings party!" while dancing with hundreds of other excited fans.
“The vibe is a lot more energetic in the air. Everyone is out to have a good time and waiting for a good game,” said Katie Rueckert who drove an hour-plus from outstate Minnesota for the game. “We didn’t expect to have a party this big today. This is the most fun tailgating I have had so far.”
Longtime season-ticket holder and tailgater Eric Haney from Prior Lake handled his usual grilling duties in a more calm tailgating lot and despite the limited space said it was “an incredible atmosphere.”
“The impact is [with less space] you have to keep moving your stuff as people move in,” Haney said, “but the excitement is that everyone is having a great time. Everyone loves it and we make the best of the situation.”
First-time tailgater Kelly Moe of Prior Lake wandered through the different lots and found herself in what she coined as the “Belly of the Beast” and enjoyed the “crazy” experience.
Out-of-town fan Frick was one of the tens of thousands that filled the streets around the stadium long before kickoff at 7:30 p.m. The masses were anxious to experience the Vikings’ new NFL gameday experience.
He and his wife Crystal drove 24 hours, with a short five-hour pit stop, from Syracuse to attend the season opener. They dressed up as superfans on Sunday with Frank wearing a cape and his face painted with an “M” on his forehead and a “V” on the bottom half of his face. His wife Crystal wore gold eyelashes and let her husband dye her hair purple on Saturday night. It took the couple two hours to get ready for the game.
Bart Melius “Sir Barticus” from Shakopee dressed up in a suit of armor for the home opener and enjoyed posing with fans for dozens for pictures.
“This is by far the best [tailgating] has ever been,” Melius said. “I picked up a guy from the airport yesterday from England. There are people that I know from the Viking world order, from all over the country and world, that I know came here. From Hawaii, from London. It’s crazy. It’s the Packers rivalry, Sunday Night Football, home opener for our new stadium. The atmosphere is just out of this world.”