Sunday, August 21, 2016

In Minnesota, Target Field Still Reigns Supreme

On Friday night, I found myself attending one of the first events at the recently opened US Bank Stadium. The new home of the Minnesota Vikings has been long anticipated, and was shown off to a soccer crowd, and a handful of concert goers prior to its intended debut on Sunday August 28. My unfortunate reality is that I wasn't at all prepared for what I experienced during what can only be described as one heck of a party put on by Luke Bryan.

Let's start with the positives. US Bank Stadium has all of the grandiose feel down to an art from the outside. The building resembles a Vikings ship, and its glass clad exterior does a great job reflecting the beautiful city around it. Once you're in a seat viewing the playing field, or in this case the concert venue, The "new" Bank is at its best. Sightlines are near flawless, leg room is plenty, and everything from the dual video boards to the glass ceiling takes your breath away. Outside of that though, I'm going to be grasping at straws.

I want to preface the next part of this by saying that I'm a Vikings fan, and was genuinely excited for the Tajh-Ma-Zygi to debut. I wanted to love this place, to forget about the days of the Metrodome, and begin to consider how many games I'd line up to be at this season. What I experienced though prior to getting to my seat has me at the realization that I won't be at a single Vikings game this year, but more than likely, not any time in the near future either.

When proposing to build their new stadium, the Vikings listed a handful of different locations. If I remember correctly, one of the last alternatives was what was essentially a field out in Arden Hills. The stadium would have been the sole reason to travel there, parking would've been aplenty, and Minnesota Vikings football would have had an area to call its own. Instead, US Bank Stadium is built in the midst of a crowded portion of downtown Minneapolis that offers little to no incentive to be there.

Regardless of a terrible parking situation, the pre-stadium experience is nothing more than tailgate or perish. There's a handful (literally a handful) of bars (none anything to write home about, although we enjoyed Maxwell's) and Izzy's ice cream. Outside of that, you've got nothing to eat at within a reasonable walking distance, and the ambiance of a Cowboy Jack's, Pizza Luce, Hubert's, or any number of other options surrounding Target Field and Target Center are nowhere to be found.

When deciding to make the plunge to enter the stadium (roughly an hour and a half prior to the concert starting), it quickly became apparent how poor crowd control would be. Thousands of patrons were cordoned into tiny lines on public sidewalks and stood stationary for no less than a half hour. Despite assuming the problem was waiting every 20 seconds for a light rail train to halt the movement, the reality was that the security of choice was to filter fans through tiny tents with metal detectors.

Instead of employing a similar, metal detector in front of each door, walk through, scan ticket, type of scenario, US Bank Stadium has an oddly inefficient plan of action. Fans are forced through small tents with a handful of metal detectors about 200 feet from the stadium. Rather than allowing foot traffic to free flow into security, stadium officials have effectively bottlenecked their own process about as massively as could have possibly been done.

When entering US Bank Stadium through the Verizon gates, you find yourself below one of the large video boards and staring at the other. When the drapes are lifted on the glass at the far end of the stadium, a nice view of downtown Minneapolis is present. Turning either to your left or right though immediately makes you feel as though you're back in the Metrodome. Concrete surrounds you everywhere. The walkways, while significantly wider than the dated H.H.H., have no character to them whatsoever. A mural here or there may present itself, but for the most part, it's the underbelly of the stadium and does a good job making you feel as such.

Before you sit down, you'll likely want to grab yourself something to eat or drink. Sure, there's a handful of unique options (I mead who doesn't want a pound of lamb at a football game right?), but those will be even more outrageously priced than your standard fare ($5 for a water and $5.50 for a pop is market inefficiency at its finest). While you're chewing on the price your pocketbook will be asked to dish out, be aware you'll have plenty of time to contemplate. Whether it's waiting in line 30 minutes for a bathroom, 45 minutes for a beer, or somewhere in between for a plate of nachos, lines are absolutely the name of the game.

Oh and those lines, plan on them being in your way even when not intending to participate in them. A football stadium can only have so many shapes, US Bank Stadium follows that mold in being an oval. The problem is that far too often you've got bathrooms on one side of the aisle, and drinks or food on the exact other. This means walking with thousands of others down the middle has now become yet another bottleneck. Again, crowd control seems to be quite a oversight here.

At the end of the day, the Minnesota Vikings have built themselves something that will show incredibly well on TV, and be enjoyable from your seat. The experience built around that however, and considering the rising cost of ticket and food prices, will have you leaving with a feeling of emptiness. Sure, the Metrodome absolutely had to go. What this "new" Bank has done however, is make me reconsider how bad the cold really is at "The Bank." I enjoy football in front of a TV enough to not have to brave the winter at the Gophers home, but on an enjoyable weather day, I'm going to the college stadium 10 times out of 10.

It's hard to compare sporting facilities given their layout and structure, but in Minnesota, there's no question Target Field still reigns supreme. If that doesn't do it for you, The Bank trumps this "new" Bank anyways.

2 comments:

  1. They havent played a single game in it yet. This is just total nonsense. I go to Target Field 40+ times a season, and its not the mecca that you seem to think it is. Its nice, but come on.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I mentioned this on Twitter as well, but TCF was a huge disaster for lines/blockades when it first opened. Some of it was of their own negligence - hand-calculating concession totals, VERY few places accepting credit cards - but some of it was growing pains of new stadium. They have improved significantly over the years as they've figured out how to handle large crowds efficiently, and I expect (hope!) that US Bank Stadium will do the same. Aesthetically, Target Field seems to have the best ambiance though, and then "East Bank", as I'm hearing some folks calling it now.

    ReplyDelete