MINNEAPOLIS - It’s enormous, not so awash in purple that even Prince might object and features every amenity you could possibly want in a 1.75-million-square-foot tribute to the Minnesota Vikings.
There are 131 suites in all, but the 23 on the field level are the crown jewel, putting you so close to the action that a wide receiver could knock your drink off the rail if he gets pushed too far out of bounds.
There are 9,300 club seats and six separate clubs, including one – Club Purple — with an outdoor patio and seven rows of purple leather sectional couches in each “individual cabin” that you can reserve by the twos.
And if you really want to spend the bucks, you can be a part of the Delta Sky 360 club on the field level and be within an arm’s reach of the Vikings as they come out of their locker and onto the field.
And, oh yeah: U.S. Bank Stadium has a football field, too.
The $1.1 billion monstrosity hosted its first regular-season football game Sunday night and its concourses were packed with curious ticket holders, many of whom entered hours before the game and just strolled around with no particular place to go.
On this night, the mostly purple-jersey wearing crowd was sprinkled with green and gold-wearing Green Bay Packers fans, who were able to snag some of the 66,655 tickets that were sold for this game. Like their Vikings-loving counterparts, they moved slowly through the concourses undoubtedly impressed with the clear panels that allow a glimpse of Minneapolis’ skyline.
“We’re hoping that maybe less of the people will be those (Packers fans) because people will hold onto their tickets,” said Lester Bagley, Vikings executive vice president of public affairs and stadium development. “We think the fans will love this building and with the team playing well and coming off a division title, we couldn’t be happier with the result.
A quick spin around U.S. Bank stadium as fans start to arrive before the Packers-Vikings game. (Sept. 18, 2016)
“Everything went into the fan experience.”
There’s no question the experience is far better if you have money to burn, but that is the case with just about every new stadium in the NFL. Teams, often with the help of public funds and the NFL, build palaces that they hope will become cash cows and keep profits flowing.
Vikings owner Ziggy Wilf cajoled Minnesota legislators for seven years in an attempt to get the public to help fund the stadium and finally won out. Tax funds covered $498 million of the cost of the building and the NFL kicked in another $200 million.
According to Forbes magazine, the Vikings are worth $2.2 billion, up 38 percent from just a year ago based on the opening of their new stadium. Media reports have said that the Wilfs paid $600 million for the Vikings in 2005.
Unquestionably, the more you can spend, the better your experience will be inside U.S. Bank Stadium, but the architects, planners and the Vikings themselves made it possible to enjoy more than just the game if you’re a plain old ticket holder.
The Vikings commissioned local artists to create paintings, drawings, sculptures and murals. High school and grade school student contributions can be seen all around the stadium honoring past and present Vikings and Minnesota sports legends.
There’s even a hallway – in a restricted suite level – where art from Vikings legends Matt Blair, Jim Marshall and Carl Eller are on display. Blair, an amateur photographer, had a vast collection to offer, many covering legendary coach Bud Grant’s tenure with the team.
In addition, there is a Vikings Voyage room that every fan with a ticket can enter for free. In addition to being a tribute to Vikings past or present, it contains numerous interactive displays, including a chance for fans to test themselves in a shuttle run.
In one part of the exhibit, 1,000 chrome footballs hang from the ceiling, a tribute to the 1,000-plus catches Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter had during his long career.
As for the football aspects of the stadium, the field is below ground level and the seats, all painted in purple, cover six seating levels.
The larger of the two end zone video boards, on the west side of the stadium, is the 10th largest board of its kind, but according to Bagley, is the lowest placed of any board that big. Walking through the concourse on the west end, the bottom of the board is probably no more than 15 to 20 feet off the ground.
Some of the crazy sights seen outside U.S. Bank Stadium prior to Packers-Vikings kicking off. (Sept. 18, 2016)
“We think it’s the best in terms of line of sight for the fans,” Bagley said.
Among the things that make Vikings fans feel like this is their home is the giant Gjallarhorn. Anybody who ever saw a game in the Metrodome or watched one played there on TV will recognize the ear-piercing battle sound that comes from it.
“Everybody can see it,” said Bagley, who added that it was newly constructed and not brought from the Metrodome.
As for the noise, the Vikings are counting on it being loud. The clear plastic-like roof is expected to bounce sound back on the field and even with the giant pivoting glass doors open on the west side – the Vikings will decide game to game whether to keep them open and offer some fresh air to the building – early returns is that the building can compete with the Metrodome.
To honor the official opening of the new stadium, the Minneapolis symphony was to play at halftime and at some point there was to be tribute to the late Prince. The NFL gave the Vikings permission to go a minute beyond the usual 12-minute halftime break.
They’re hoping it’s a fitting tribute to a new era.