U.S. Bank Stadium dwarfs its predecessor and, officials hope, so will the pregame action.
The Minnesota Vikings are encouraging fans to come early to home games and stay late. The team is setting up an 800-person bar and music garden on the plaza outside the stadium when the Vikings are in town.
The new venues are adjacent to a family area with kid-friendly games on the Commons, the park outside the new $1.1 billion stadium.
The Vikings Longhouse bar is the most visible new element. The aluminum and glass building, going up on the plaza just in time for Sunday’s first preseason home game, is 67 feet by 116 feet and 35 feet tall at its highest point. It will have heating and cooling systems.
Adjacent to the bar: The Miller Beer Garden will have live music. The venues will come down after the NFL season.
And fans don’t even need tickets.
“The Vikings Longhouse is for fans to come and mingle together, enjoy some of the camaraderie that comes with a pregame,” said Dannon Hulskotter, Vikings vice president of marketing and fan engagement.
For reasons both practical and commercial, the Vikings say the new spaces make sense. When the Vikings played at the Metrodome, a closed-off stretch of Chicago Avenue S. was the only pedestrian space for pregame action. The cramped passage included some concessions and merchandise sales but didn’t encourage mingling or lingering.
Now the team can offer more, with the aim of also helping fans get to and from the game without long waits or logjams. An inaugural soccer match earlier this month at U.S. Bank Stadium left fans jammed on the light-rail platform waiting up to 90 minutes for a train home.
Tailgating space is limited to about 600 spaces on private lots near the stadium. Team spokesman Jeff Anderson said some spaces remain.
The Vikings will send their cheerleaders, Skol drum line and Viktor the Viking mascot around to all festivities: tailgaters, the Longhouse, beer garden and the Commons.
The Longhouse, named for the gathering spots of ancestral Vikings, sits just off the stadium’s southwest corner on a portion of the parking lot that used to be exclusively for the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office.
The adjacent alcohol-free family space aims to entice youngsters with inflatable obstacle courses, football tossing and face painting. Game tickets aren’t necessary there, either.
Hulskotter said the family space will be between Portland and Park avenues and 4th and 5th streets, with an option to expand if it’s popular.
He said it’s about connecting to fans, getting “right in your face to get you excited.”