There are likely going to be two kinds of motorists this weekend -- those flocking to the University of Minnesota for outdoor hockey at TCF Bank Stadium, other sporting events and concerts, and those who will seek to stay as far away as possible.
The weather should cooperate, maybe even be a bit too warm, for Wild and Blackhawks alumni players who will skate at 4 p.m. Saturday and when the current teams battle at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Temperatures in the 40s should make it enjoyable for the 50,000 fans expected to pack the stands and jam streets and parking lots at the U.
Besides hockey, other events including gymnastics, wrestling and swimming will bring a few thousand more folks to campus, so be ready to sit in traffic and have alternative parking plans in your back pocket.
"It's going to be hopping busy," said Jacqueline Brudlos of the university's Parking and Transportation Services department. "We have large events all the time, so we are ready."
Downtown Minneapolis is also hosting a few traffic-generating events with the Lake Home and Cabin Show, the Women's Expo, a wedding fair and "Dinosaurs! A Family Adventure" show at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Those events will put extra vehicles on Grant, 11th and 12th Streets, and on 3rd Avenue near the center.
The Timberwolves play the New York Knicks at Target Center Saturday night.
And more hockey is on tap in St. Paul where the Girl's State High School Hockey Tournament plays at the Xcel Energy Center.
Here are some transit tips if any of these events are on your dance card:
University of Minnesota events
The U has 19,500 parking spaces in ramps and lots near TCF Bank Stadium, Ridder and Williams arenas and the aquatics center, so there are plenty of places to park your car. Watch for some streets that will be turned into one-ways and follow the lead of traffic control agents who will be on the streets to provide direction.
The best advice is to arrive early and stay late to ease the traffic crunch, Brudlos said. Traffic will be heaviest on 4th Street, 5th Street, University Avenue and Huron Blvd., roads leading to the heart of the campus. Motorists on I-94, I-35W and Hwy. 280 can expect traffic to bunch up on exits near the university.
Another helpful piece of advice is to consider using the U's lot on the St. Paul campus near the State Fairgrounds. It's at Dan Patch Avenue and Randall Avenue. From there, the $20 parking fee includes a free ride to campus on University of Minnesota buses.
Lots and ramps will charge $20 to $25 on site. The U is selling a two-day parking pass combo for $40 online. It's $10 cheaper than the daily rate for those heading to campus Saturday and Sunday, and it comes with a reserved parking spot.
Green Line trains stop right across the street from TCF Bank Stadium, so that is always a viable option to avoid getting caught in traffic snarls. Trains also stop a few blocks away at the East Bank Station. Platforms there are usually less crowded, so use it and enjoy some elbow room.
Here is a tip: Metro Transit is selling pre-paid tickets for the Green and Blue Lines. Buy them in advance and avoid the ticket machines and associated lines.
Metro Transit will run extra northbound Northstar trains from Target Field at 9 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Connect to a Green Line train from there to get to the U.
Metered parking is always in option in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul, if that' where your fun destination is. Some meters are free on weekends, and some are not. Be sure to check the meter to learn if they are enforced. But they can be cheaper than parking in a lot or ramp that charges event prices.
In Minneapolis, park on the street and hop on a Metro Transit bus to get around. Look for buses marked “Free Ride” and pay no fare when boarding along Hennepin Avenue. You’ll have an easy ride between the Convention Center and the METRO Blue and Green lines on 5th Street.
For those heading into the Capitol city, here is a guide to parking options in downtown St. Paul.