College Prepares To Host NFL Team

TCF Bank Stadium facing millions in upgrades before Vikings rental

  • by Jessica Boudevin
  • Published: May 22, 2013

Temporary seating could be added at the west end of the building, underneath the scoreboard area, at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in order to accomodate the Vikings. (VT Photo)

REPORTING FROM MINNEAPOLIS —The Minnesota Vikings are going back to school.

The National Football League team will be playing the 2014 and 2015 seasons at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis while crews work to replace the aging Metrodome with a $975-million stadium. 

It will be the second time the Vikings play at TCF Stadium — the team used the facility in December 2010 for a Monday Night Football Game with the Chicago Bears after snow damaged the Metrodome's roof. IAVM's Region 1, 2 & 3 conference was held in Minneapolis May 20-22 and attendees were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at potential changes to the facility.

In addition to the $250,000-per-game rental fee, plus all expenses, that the Vikings will pay TCF Bank Stadium, the home of the Golden Gophers will undergo more than $1 million in upgrades before the start of the 2014 season. The NFL team is funding all stadium renovations. The Vikings will keep food and beverage revenue from their games up to a certain point, at which additional revenue becomes a profit share between the team and the school.

One of the most visible upgrades will happen to the turf itself.

“Our field wasn’t designed to be heated so next summer, after the Gophers’ spring games, we’re going to tear it up and install coils,” said Brian Grant, TCF Bank Stadium Operations manager. The project is currently out for RFP, but similar projects at stadiums like Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., reportedly cost around $700,000-$1 million.

“Minnesota is a challenge weather-wise, but since the college season usually ends in November, I don’t see a real operational need to heat the field during college games except maybe under extreme circumstances,” Grant added.

The look of the field will change, too. The hash marks customary in college football will be replaced with narrower hash marks measured to the NFL's specifications, and it will be the first time that the venue will start painting its field.

Current capacity of TCF Bank Stadium is 50,805. The facility is looking at ways to add another 3,500 seats, either through reconfiguring standing room spaces or adding temporary bench seating in the west end underneath the scoreboard.

locker_room.JPGThe largest locker room in professional or college sports, shaped like a football, is at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. (VT Photo)

In 2012, the facility became only the 22nd college in the country to start selling alcohol at athletic events. Instead of selling at the normal points of sale, TCF Bank Stadium’s state liquor license mandated that beer and wine sales be limited to a confined area of the stadium. Aramark and the venue worked together to set up a beer garden near the west end zone, and worked out of eight portable beer trailers — four inside the stadium, and four outside. Each had six taps. 

“We actually took a financial loss on beer sales last year,” said Grant. “Since it was our first year doing it, we took on a lot of the operational and equipment costs.” The venue had 48 points of sale that were alcohol-only during the 2012 season, and Grant added that the number of incidents requiring security actually went down after the building began serving alcohol.

Currently, the stadium is looking at more efficient ways to sell alcohol when the Vikings begin play in 2014. There’s an RFP out to add points of sale on the concourse itself.

Not all of the concerns address things that fans will see.

“Storage is a big concern,” said Director of Operations Derek Hillestad. “Not only do we need to find a place for additional food and beverage storage, but the Vikings have a lot of production and marketing items, including their inflatable ship and horn, that take up space.”

As far as signage is concerned, the Vikings and TCF Bank Stadium are working together to figure out how to appease both of their sponsors.

“We’re open to looking at any and all opportunities to accommodate the team and their sponsors,” said Hillestad. “Right now they have purple and yellow all around their stadium, and when it comes to things that are temporary and removable, we should absolutely be able to bring that in.” TCF Bank Stadium also has video boards for easily-changed signage, including the main and auxiliary boards as well as LED fascia boards. 

There are some things that the venue won’t have to change. The concourses are already two-and-a-half times as wide as those at the Metrodome.

lockers.JPGCustom lockers at TCF Bank Stadium. (VT Photo)

The Gophers boast the largest locker room in all of college and professional sports worldwide. The football-shaped design is 60-yards long by 20-yards wide and each locker is custom cherry wood. 

“With 112 lockers in here, they can even spread out to every-other locker,” said Grant, who added that he doesn’t think the color scheme of the locker rooms will change. The visitor’s locker room will also work when the NFL comes because there are enough oversize lockers to accommodate a visiting team.

The facility won’t have to undergo upgrades in order to accommodate the television schedule of the NFL either.

“We’re very NFL-friendly from a broadcast infrastructure because we’re so over-engineered when it comes to college football,” said Hillestad. That infrastructure was put to the test when TCF Bank Stadium hosted the Vikings there for a Monday Night Football game after the roof of the Metrodome collapsed.

“We accommodated every camera angle they needed and it all worked out great,” Hillestad said.

Though it will be a challenge to schedule the Vikings and the Gophers should the seasons overlap, Hillestad said that with enough planning and organization, they should be able to accommodate anything.

“All it takes is time and money,” he added, and with the venue set to make $2.5-million each season just in rent, it doesn’t sound like scheduling will be a problem.

Interviewed for this story: Brian Grant, (612) 624-5334; Derek Hillestad, (612) 624-5523

  • by Jessica Boudevin
  • Published: May 22, 2013