Football’s return to downtown Minneapolis might have fans who attended games at the former Metrodome ready to revert to their old commuting routines, but the neighborhood — with its new name, East Town — around U.S. Bank Stadium has changed significantly over the past two years. Redevelopment has claimed several surface lots fans were familiar with, and streets have been reconfigured, introducing new traffic patterns.
While nearly a third of fans take public transportation to games — that’s still a viable option — the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority spent 10 months crafting a traffic management plan designed to get fans who drive to the 32,000 parking spaces in downtown lots and ramps with ease and have them leave the city by retracing their steps.
The plan divides downtown into four geography-based parking zones based on routes fans are most likely to take to the game. Fans coming from the south metro on Interstate 35W, for example, are encouraged to park on the south side of the stadium. Those coming from the north, east and west are encouraged to park in areas on the corresponding side of the stadium. Information on usbankstadium.com includes an interactive guide where fans can enter their ZIP code and find directions to the Red, Blue, Gold or Purple zone that corresponds to the route they are most likely to take.
Roads around the stadium are likely to get packed with the new layout of westbound 5th Street (it’s down to a single westbound lane) and freeway traffic coming off eastbound I-94 being deposited on 7th Street. That means motorists using I-94, I-35W and Cedar Avenue will be converging in the same area. The goal to disperse parking into the four zones is to “mitigate cars from driving around the stadium looking for parking,” team and stadium officials said.
Snagging a metered space is an option, too, but beware. Meters in a several-block radius of the stadium are marked as “Event Parking” and go for a $15 flat fee starting four hours before kickoff until one hour after the final gun sounds.
Parking away from U.S. Bank Stadium doesn’t mean you’ll have to hoof it. Light-rail and bus rides anywhere downtown are just 50 cents, and buses on 4th and 6th streets drop you at the stadium’s front doors.
Tailgating is as much of the gameday experience as watching the team in action. This year, the Vikings contracted 600 to 700 spaces where fans can spread out and enjoy a pregame feast and beverage. Fans can buy season passes for those lots.
From the north and northwest
I-94 is an easy route into downtown Minneapolis. Take the 4th Street exit. There’s an entry point into Ramp C or drivers can continue into downtown. A new 1,610-space ramp connected to the stadium by a skyway has opened at 4th Street and Chicago Avenue. Alternate entry points include Washington Avenue or 7th Street. From east of the Mississippi River, the natural route into town is I-35W to Washington Avenue. You might want to jump off on 4th Street and cross into to downtown via the 3rd Avenue Bridge or use Hennepin Avenue.
From the south
I-35W is the fan favorite, but it’s usually jam-packed. Hiawatha Avenue also is busy, so Cedar, Chicago, Park, 3rd, 1st, Nicollet and LaSalle avenues are possibilities, depending on where you choose to park. Using 11th Avenue might work, too.
From the west
Most fans will zoom into town via I-394 and may take advantage of the MnPass lane. That route provides direct access to Ramps A, B and C. Exits at 12th Street could help you avoid congestion on 4th, 6th and 8th streets. Lesser-traveled routes include Hwy. 55 to 7th Street, or you could be sneaky and use Glenwood Avenue. Keep in mind the Hennepin/Lyndale Avenue construction, which can serve up a real gameday bottleneck.
From the east
The newest change: the 5th St. ramp off I-94 is closed. Traffic now uses 7th Street, meaning it will mingle with fans coming from the south exiting off I-35W. Using 11th Avenue is an option, but a couple of right turns will put you into stagnant traffic. It might be easier to zoom through the Lowry Hill Tunnel and use Olson Highway and then circle back into downtown from the northwest.
Green and Blue Line trains stop right outside the stadium, and a new pedestrian bridge linking the west platform to the stadium should make for convenient arrivals and departures. Metropass holders can swipe and hop on. Riders with stored value cards or one-time riders can buy round-trip tickets in advance online or in person at platform kiosks and skip long lines at vending machines and ticket booths after the game. Choose option G from the menu. The new Metro Transit app, when it debuts, will allow riders to display proof of purchase on their phones. Fans from the east metro can take a connecting bus, bike or walk to the Green Line. Paid parking will be offered at Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.
Blue Line riders can park for free at the 28th Avenue and Fort Snelling park-and-ride lots. Up to 21 buses will shuttle nonstop service back to the lots after each game to expedite return trips and reduce crowding on trains. Buses will depart on South 4th Street. Fans will not have to enter the station to board.
Northstar trains will operate on all gamedays and for the two concerts in August. Prepaid round-trip tickets, both individual and family, are available at metrotransit.org. Trains arrive and depart from Target Field Station. From there, hop a Blue Line or a Route 3 to U.S. Bank Stadium.
A new trail passes right in front of the stadium, which has hundreds of spots to lock up your bike.
By Uber, charter/shuttle bus
Uber, ride sharing and charter/shuttle buses will pick up and drop off on the 5th Street side of the stadium.