As Saturday’s rescheduled U2 concert approaches, Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota are preparing for the first major non-football event at TCF Bank Stadium that will bring close to 60,000 fans to campus.
Local police, stadium staff and the University’s Parking and Transportation Services have worked together to troubleshoot for issues that may arise during the mega-event — from parking to crowd control to coping with the concurrent campus construction projects.
“There are a lot of people running around,” said Scott Ellison, the University’s associate athletic department director. Ellison watched Monday as workers covered the football field with 2-inch-thick aluminum flooring to protect it from semitrailer tires and 9,000 people with general admission tickets on the field.
U2’s Minneapolis concert was originally scheduled for last June, but was postponed because of Bono’s health.
Gates will open at 5 p.m. Saturday, and the opening act, the NYC band Interpol, will begin playing at 7 p.m. Bono and friends are expected to take the stage around 9 p.m.
It will be the band’s 10th concert in the Twin Cities and the largest outdoor concert in Minneapolis in more than 30 years, Ellison said.
On Tuesday, semitrailers began to cart in pieces of the stage — a four-legged, 170-foot structure taller than the stadium’s walls — onto the field near the 30-yard line, and will begin assembling Wednesday or Thursday.
Kathleen O’Brien, vice president of University Services, wrote in an email to students Monday that more than 100 trucks had begun delivery of lights, sound systems and staging.
The crowd is expected to spill over the East Bank of campus — more so than a normal football game, said Jacqueline Brudlos, University Parking and Transportation Services spokeswoman. The University is encouraging students and staff to avoid East Bank on Saturday.
“This is our first big concert on campus and it will be a learning experience,” Brudlos said.
Tailgating, parking and traffic
Unlike Gopher football games, tailgating is prohibited before the concert. With the size of the expected crowd, tailgating would take up too much space and prevent others from finding a parking spot, Brudlos said.
Also, tailgating at the concert may anger neighbors of the University and pull law enforcement and security personnel away from more pressing issues, she said.
The University is encouraging concert-goers looking for a drink to stop by bars and restaurants in Stadium Village or Dinkytown.
Much like games during the football season, traffic and parking are another concern for the concert. Parking spaces are limited, and traffic backups may happen due to the construction, Brudlos said.
Prepaid parking for the six lots on the University’s East Bank has sold out. Those lots will open at noon.
The Minnesota Lot, a space behind the stadium, has been closed since Sunday to serve as a storage area for the band’s stage, equipment and trailers.
The Washington Avenue Ramp sold some prepaid parking and some day-of parking, though general admission attendees will likely have to park in structures further away, such as the East River Parkway Garage.
General admission ticketholders are expected to line up very early to gain the best spots on the field, Brudlos said. Seat holders may come later, but Brudlos suggested fans get to the stadium before 6 p.m.
A ‘more mellow’ crowd
Security will be similar to a typical Gophers game. To protect and control the 58,000 attendees, 110 uniformed officers from the University, Minneapolis and other metro police departments will be on patrol inside and outside of the stadium Saturday night, University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said.
Police will work closely with the Contemporary Services Corporation, the company that contracts with the University to provide security at all TCF stadium events, Miner said.
A CSC representative declined to comment on security plans for the event.
Miner said that many of the officers will be patrolling parking lots and the crowd and aiding security at gates. He said that the number of officers at the concert would be similar to a Gophers game, but many of them will be stationed on the field.
Ellison said he doesn’t believe the crowd will cause much of a stir. He described the typical U2 concert attendee as older, and “more mellow” than a typical college student at a football game.
“U2 is not exactly the kind of band that college kids listen to,” Ellison said.
He said that at a previous U2 concert on this tour with a similar crowd size, attendees interacted with police only 11 times. On average, police have to deal with 20 to 30 football fans per game at TCF Stadium.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty declined to comment on whether normal police patrols in the surrounding area would be altered to deal with the deluge of people.
Construction may be the largest challenge for staff this year. The closure of Washington Avenue Southeast and partial closure of the bridge may cause a large traffic problem, Brudlos said.
“That may be shocking for some visitors who are not familiar with campus or light-rail plans,” Brudlos said.
But Ellison believes they have done all they can do to make ticketholders aware of the situation, including talking to media and sending out emails.
“We’ve done our best in communicating to the fans to plan ahead,” Ellison said.
PTS has also warned that traffic may be even worse than expected. The Minneapolis Aquatennial fireworks show is scheduled for the same night, and will likely end around the same time.
In total, there could be more than 100,000 people in the downtown and campus areas Saturday night for the events, Brudlos said.
No future plans
Though no other bands have approached the stadium staff about renting the space for future events yet, Ellison is confident that the U2 concert will showcase the other possibilities for the venue.
“We’ve been told it’s the Super Bowl of concerts,” Ellison said of Saturday’s show. “We’re very excited to host this concert, because it does put us on the map with the concert industry.”
Describing it as a multi-use venue, Ellison mentioned the marching band practices, flag football games and competitions like the Drum Corps International that the stadium has hosted.
“We didn’t build the stadium just for football games.” Ellison said. “We built it for other things too.”