SBD/December 16, 2010/Facilities

NFL Working With Vikings, But Yet To Sign Off On TCF Bank Stadium

Univ. Of Minnesota Officials Are Working To Clear Snow At TCF Bank Stadium

The NFL "has yet to sign off" on moving Monday's Bears-Vikings game to the Univ. of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium "despite the confidence that Vikings and U officials have that they can transform the once-shuttered college stadium into an NFL venue in less than a week," according to Brian Murphy of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said in an e-mail, "We are working closely with the Vikings. We already have staff there to assist and more on the way. The plan is to play the game at TCF Bank Stadium." Aiello "did not respond to direct questions about how and when the NFL would determine whether the stadium is a practical alternative to the Metrodome." UM is "scrambling to clear several feet of snow from TCF Bank Stadium, and NFL officials have methods to ensure the FieldTurf surface, which does not have an underground heating system, is sufficiently thawed for the Vikings and Bears to play in expected subfreezing temperatures." UM Associate AD for Facilities & Event Management Scott Ellison said that the NFL's "top priority was clearing the field, thawing it with chemicals and blowing hot air under a tarp to keep it from refreezing before Monday's 7:20 p.m. kickoff." But "still undetermined is an equitable distribution system to seat 64,000 ticketholders in a stadium with a capacity close to 51,000."  There was talk about "erecting temporary bleachers in the plaza behind the west end zone to squeeze in an additional 4,000 to 5,000 fans, but that would not satisfy everyone." Ellison said that TCF Bank Stadium's 38 suite owners "have the right of first refusal to access their enclosed boxes, leaving any leftovers to Vikings suite holders." The Vikings late yesterday "had yet to publicly announce how the team would manage the ticket disparity." Also "unclear is whether alcohol will be sold." UM News Service Dir Dan Wolter said that the concourses are "not equipped for kegs to be tapped or fountain drinks to be served in subfreezing conditions, so pop or beer would have to be served in bottles" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/16).

POTENTIAL OBSTACLES: Stadium officials "don't know what will happen when they turn the water back on in TCF Bank Stadium because they turned off the water after the Gophers' last game in November and the pipes could freeze." The bathrooms and concession stands "are also concerns." The concessions "must be insulated because it's safe to work in those stands only if it is over 30 degrees and bathrooms in the stadium have an open entry and aren't heated, meaning the pipes could freeze." The Vikings said that NFL officials "toured the stadium Wednesday to make sure it was safe for fans and meets other league requirements." Wolter said that it is "not clear how much it will cost to get TCF Bank Stadium ready for the game and then to host it." He added that the Vikings "vowed to cover the entire tab." Wolter said that the total cost with all preparations "could reach $700,000 or more," though ESPN.com's John Clayton cited Vikings sources as saying that the cost "could rise to as much as" $1M. Sources said that the Colts "have offered to host the game inside their domed Lucas Oil Stadium" (ESPN.com, 12/15). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote, "At some point, if they're not certain that TCF Bank Stadium will be ready, don't they have to move to an alternate site?" (ESPN.com, 12/15).

WILF WEIGHS IN: Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf yesterday "made his first comments about the situation to reporters in Dallas at the NFL meetings, and he sounded confident that the game will be played at the Gophers' stadium." Wilf: "A lot of people are working very hard to get it done, but we want to assure the fans in the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota that we're going to have a game in Minnesota." Vikings LB and assistant player rep Ben Leber said that he "has not been asked about the choice of venue." Leber: "They haven't consulted us, and to my understanding they haven't consulted anybody. ... I think this is too big of situation when it comes down to money and ticket sales for us to have a big enough voice to say, 'You have to move the game or we're not going to play'" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/16).

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