One of few similarities between TCF Bank Stadium and the Metrodome is that when the Minnesota Vikings look up in either stadium, all they see is white.
Their indoor home since 1982 features a white Teflon roof that collapsed last weekend after a Minneapolis snowstorm, forcing the professional team to play in Detroit last week and at the University of Minnesota’s second-year stadium on Monday.
TCF Bank Stadium sits just two miles away from the Metrodome, but it doesn’t have the benefit of a room to shield players and fans from inclement weather, such as the snow that swirled throughout the Vikings’ 40-14 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Regardless of the weather they saw Monday night, the Vikings felt right at home, and if stadium issues force them to use the Gophers’ stadium in the future, they wouldn’t mind one bit.
“It definitely had a little bit different field conditions, and I think it might be a little louder at the Metrodome,” said running back Toby Gerhart, who finished with 77 yards on 16 rushes. “But there were times here where it was just as loud, and it was just a good place to play tonight.”
In order to ready the field for Monday’s game, the University asked for volunteers to help the paid workers remove snow. All in all, they managed to clear an estimated 40,000 cubic yards of snow during 15,000 man-hours, according to the athletics department.
The same snowstorm that collapsed the Metrodome’s roof also prevented the Vikings from using the University’s stadium last week when they had to play a home game against the New York Giants at Ford Field in Detroit.
“This is an opportunity for the fans to support the Vikings,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said before the game. “They lost their home game last week, primarily because we didn’t have sufficient time to play here. I think this is going to be a great thing for the fans tonight.”
And despite not having great expectations for the field, the Vikings players thought the field was fine and didn’t blame it one bit for the loss.
“Tonight it felt like a home game,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “We just have to play better, and we obviously didn’t do that tonight.”
The only problem that players reported with the field was that it was a little hard, and two Vikings, including quarterback Brett Favre, suffered head injuries during the game. Other than that, the field held up to conditions yet unseen since the Gophers have never hosted a game at TCF Bank Stadium after Nov. 27.
“I thought the field was going to be like we were playing on concrete,” kickoff returner Lorenzo Booker said. “I thought we were going to be sliding everywhere. I had no issues with the turf.”
Players did slide often during the game, but only after being tackled. On Favre’s first pass, receiver Percy Harvin made a diving catch before sliding for about five yards out of bounds.
An announced crowd of 40,504 showed up to see the Vikings play an outdoor home game for the first time since 1981. And although the result was a loss, the game was in many ways a success.
The Minnesota Legislature has rejected numerous plans for a new stadium, and with the Vikings’ lease on the Metrodome ending after the 2011 season, the team could soon be homeless. If the Vikings need a place to play during the construction of a stadium they still hope to build in the Twin Cities, Goodell said the NFL could look into using the Gophers’ stadium.
“If we get to a point where a solution is identified where maybe [the new stadium] is in the location where the dome is and this needs to be a temporary facility, those are discussions we’re going to have to have,” Goodell said.
Booker initially joked that he wouldn’t want to play at TCF Bank Stadium again, where the wind-chill was just nine degrees at kickoff. But the California native reconsidered and said, “This is pro football, and it doesn’t matter where you play. You’re going to play some bad weather games.”
Gerhart, a rookie, had a similar sentiment about the unclear future facing the Vikings’ home.
“We’ll play where we play,” he said. “All that stuff’s beyond our control. We’ll play wherever.”
- No sell-out, but 40k fans brave snow to see first outdoor Vikings game since '81