For those on the West Bank, getting to Gopher games can get complicated once pre-game festivities and transportation are factored in.
“If they go to a bar before and after the game, they’re going to get tuned up,” said JJ Maleitzke , general manager of Preston’s Urban Pub , formerly Sargent Preston’s .
To alleviate the problem, six Seven Corners businesses have hired shuttle buses to run to and from the TCF Bank Stadium before and after Gopher football games. It’s a move they say has contributed to even better game day sales than when the Gophers played football in the Metrodome .
“This is a way to get from A to B without having to worry about driving,” Maleitzke said.
The buses provide a way to stay competitive with the Stadium Village and Dinkytown businesses that are closer to the stadium, Larry LaMont , general manager of the Holiday Inn Metrodome , said.
“We know that parking and transportation could be an issue in those areas,” he said, adding Seven Corners has a good combination of parking lots and ramps. “With the businesses and restaurants that are available, we’re hoping that we’d be an area people would like to come to.”
Mark Johnson, president of the West Bank Business Association , said the buses will definitely make the area more competitive, and the parking ramp adds an element of convenience.
“People can come down, they can park, they can go have something to eat and drink,” he said, “and take the shuttle over there and take the shuttle back.”
There was concern before the Gophers moved that businesses would lose their game day rush, Maleitzke said. To lessen the chances of that, Seven Corners began a promotional campaign, placing radio ads, printing flyers and ordering the buses.
Two shuttle buses, free and open to anyone who needs a ride, run from the West Bank to the stadium every 15 to 20 minutes about two hours before and after each game.
While the buses have already contributed to his game day business, Pete Rifakes , owner of the Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery , said he expects they’ll draw an even bigger crowd next year when the word gets out.
“I think what we offer is a less congested area so people can come over here and not be thrown into the hustle and bustle of the new stadium,” he said. “Over there, it’s just crazy.”
The businesses have been sending buses from Seven Corners to the Metrodome for Vikings games over the past two years, but not for Gopher games, Maleitzke said. The Holiday Inn has been shuttling hotel guests to games for almost six years, LaMont said.
Each business — Preston’s Urban Pub, The Corner Bar , Bullwinkle’s Saloon, Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, a parking ramp and the Holiday Inn Metrodome — chips in an equal amount to rent the buses.
So far this year, Preston’s business has exceeded last year’s by a long shot, despite the Gophers’ move, Maleitzke said.
“I don’t think they sold 50,000 tickets at the Dome, and every game is sold out now, so those people have to go somewhere,” he said. “There’s another 30,000 people in town and if you’ve got a good bar, they’ll come there.”