Football fans of a certain age find it appropriate that the Minnesota Vikings are preparing to play an outdoor home game Monday, December 20. After all, it was 30 years ago last Tuesday, December 14, that the Vikings created one of their most famous pre-Metrodome moments when quarterback Tommy Kramer threw a 53-yard “Hail Mary” touchdown pass to Ahmad Rashad with no time remaining as the Vikings won the NFC Central with a 28-23 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Alas, nostalgia buffs who fondly recall trying to recreate the Kramer-to-Rashad moment on the sandlot might be the only ones happy with the Vikings’ return to the outdoors.
With the Metrodome unavailable after its roof collapsed during last weekend’s blizzard, the NFL announced Thursday, December 16 that the Vikings’ game against the division rival Chicago Bears Monday will be played in Minneapolis at TCF Bank Stadium, which is the home of the University of Minnesota football team.
This will be the Vikings’ second home game away from home in as many Mondays. The Vikings, of course, had to postpone their home game against the New York Giants Sunday, December 12, and move it to Detroit’s Ford Field a night later.
The game at TCF Bank Stadium will be the first outdoor home contest for the Vikings since the Metrodome opened in 1982, but aside from the NFL, nobody seems in the mood to make history. Players on both teams have expressed concerns with playing in 10-degree weather on a playing surface already frozen solid after absorbing 17 inches of snow. There were rumors the Bears were planning to protest the game, but NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Chicago Tribune Thursday those reports were “bogus.”
Preparing TCF Bank Stadium for an NFL game in just a few days is a monumental task even without having to clear 1,500 tons of snow. Since the facility seats only 51,000 — down from 64,000 at the Metrodome — the Vikings declared the game would be a general admission, first-come, first-served event, though fans with lower level seats (which will be valued at $77 Monday) at the Metrodome will get to line up first (at 4 pm) and enter TCF first (at 5 pm). Fans with upper level seats (which will be valued at $29) can begin entering the stadium at 5:30. Anyone who ends up losing this adult version of musical chairs will receive a refund.
The rescheduling presents ticket brokers with unique and unwelcome challenges, as well, though Mike Nowakowski — one of the owners of Ticket King in Minneapolis — is just as concerned about the scene at TCF Bank as he is with dealing with unhappy customers.
“It’s going to be like the running of the bulls when they open the gates,” Nowakowski told TicketNews. “It’s going to be 10 degrees. So they want little old ladies — season ticket holders who have had their season tickets for 50 years — to sit out there for three hours and then get trampled by drunk Vikings fans that have been tailgating since noon?”
Nowakowski said Ticket King has heard from many fans who either can’t attend the game or are unhappy that they spent money for seats they are no longer guaranteed to occupy.
“We just got off the phone with a Mom whose husband recently died,” Nowakowski said. “The husband used to take the kids to Vikings game and she was going to take them to the Vikings-Bears game and they bought special seats from us. And she can’t deal with a general admission event with kids.”
Nowakowski said anyone who bought Vikings-Bears tickets from Ticket King expecting it to be played at the Metrodome will get an in-store credit, regardless of whether they go to the game or not. “If they want to go the game, we’re giving them in-store credit for the full amount over the face value of the ticket,” Nowakowski said. “And if they don’t want to go to the game, they get in-store credit on the full invoice.”
As frustrated as Nowakowski is with being unable to place customers in the seats they bought, he was even more upset with what he perceived as bullying tactics by the NFL to make sure the game turned into an outdoor event.
“I’ve had better days in my 26 years,” Nowakowski said. “The NFL could not have handled this worse. The Vikings had no say in it. The Gophers had no say in it. Goliath came in and dictated all policies. They know the power that they wield.
“And you know what’s unfortunate? It will be cool. It’s a brand-new stadium, but it has an old-fashioned feel to it, and the fact that there’s an NFL game there is really neat. And the NFL has found a way to absolutely screw the event up.”