Sunday, October 4, 2009

TCF Bank Stadium

The question tomorrow at work will be, What did you think of Minnesota's new stadium? That is, of course, if the average sports fan in Wisconsin even realizes the Gophers have a new stadium, or if they somehow forget that the Minnesota Favres are playing the Packers in The Biggest Football Game In The History of Earth.

My response will be, It's very nice, it would easily be the nicest stadium in the MAC.

All right, all right, too snotty. Minnesota did a nice job with the new place. As Barry Alvarez told Sid Hartman on the radio this morning, they got their bang for their buck, or something like that. The few bugs we experienced will likely be ironed out over time. Even though it was overcast and damp, that was better than heading inside a dome on a beautiful fall day.

The exterior of the place is strange, lots of windows and glass. Not ugly by any means, but it looked more like a commercial building than a stadium.

The worst part, by far, was entry. We arrived at the gates about 15 minutes before kickoff, and waited in line so long we missed the first seven minutes of play. This was after we chose the unfortunately-named "Express" line. The game tickets had bar codes on them, but the ticket takers for some reason had no bar code readers.

Inside, the concession stands did not have cash registers. Instead, the workers used calculators to tally up orders, sort of like they do at the Iola-Scandinavia JV games by my house. Another technical blunder I observed came after a Gopher interception, when the scoreboard flashed "FIELD GOAL!!! FIELD GOAL!!!"

Other than that things were really nice. Our excellent seats, obtained by Matt Schwalbach, were actual seats, not benches or benches with seat backs attached. With cup holders! Much nicer than Camp Randall seats. We were more or less surrounded by Gopher fans who were very civil and sportsmanlike, as I believe we were in return. I got two yummy chocolate chip cookies for $1, as good a value as you'll find anywhere.

The school harkens to its successful past with signs noting its Big Ten and national championships between the lower and upper decks, although it does remind me of the banners we had at the Field House honoring all of our national championship boxing teams from the 1950s. Cheesy, however, are the signs circling the upper deck noting the Gophers' bowl appearances. Do you really want to be bragging about appearances in the Music City and Micron PC Bowls?

The concourses are plenty big, overall much better than Camp Randall. They also have some unused room at one end of the field, where I would put statues of someone like, say, Bronco Nagurski.

Unlike entering the stadium, exiting was very easy. Of course, that's because only about 15 Gopher fans were still there for their band's version of the Fifth Quarter. Their music was so quiet that about 100 Badger fans staging their own spoken-word version of a Camp Randall Fifth Quarter in the upper deck drowned out the Minnesota band.

The game was announced as a sellout, but there were plenty of empty seats in the corners of the student section. Hilariously, our Gopher friend Chris Toren, the ultimate good sport after years of crushing defeats in this game, claimed that it was for spillover media. Right, the U issued 15 press passes to Japanese media members who didn't come when the forecast showed rain.

It is undeniable, though, that there were far fewer Badger fans in attendance than in prior years. The actual ratio was hard to determine from our seats, but watching the TV replay I would think only about 10% of the crowd was wearing red. Give it a few years and see how tough tickets are to find once the novelty of the new field wears off.

Bottom line: nice place, good for the Minnesota program, 1,000 times better than the Metrodome.


Brian said...

On TV it sounded like MN stole all of the traditional Camp Randall Third Down music. I swore I heard some Hells Bells, Metallica, etc.

Tim said...

Thanks for the review.

As for those shameless bowl appearance signs, I don't think they are a bad idea. For example, some top recruits visiting the stadium might not be aware that Minny played in the Micron PC Bowl - or that there is such a thing as the Micron PC Bowl. Very informative.

Scott Tappa said...

Brian -- That's one thing I'm really not liking about certain pockets of college football right now. Too often at Camp Randall you hear Enter Sandman or Crazy Train or something similar, and you did at Minnesota too. Then there's Penn State playing that house music after every first down. Can't believe Paterno allows that. College football should only have bands playing, even if it's annoying pure noise like the Gopher band was generating.

Only acceptable exception: Jump Around.

Scott Tappa said...

Tim -- Fun fact: I just looked up the Micron PC Bowl on Wikipedia, and it appears that it has morphed into the illustrious Champs Sports Bowl, where we were last seen with our hands on our ankles, bent over for Florida State. I'm guessing that we'll never be bragging about our Champs Sports/Micron PC Bowl appearance.

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