MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings' new $1.1 billion stadium has been test-driven by soccer players, a country music superstar and an iconic heavy metal band. But the biggest test for U.S. Bank Stadium comes Sunday when the football team and its rabid fans finally arrive.
Here's a look at some of the biggest bugs operators have faced so far, and what's been done to fix them as the Vikings prepare to host San Diego for a preseason game.
LONG LINES AND THICK CROWDS
Long lines have been the biggest complaint so far. Lines to get in, lines for food and drink, and lines to the women's bathrooms. Not to mention the crowded concourses packed with fans who were more interested in seeing the sights of the new stadium than finding their seats. Restroom complaints peaked with the heavily female audience for Luke Bryan's country show Aug. 19; fewer were heard the next night from the heavily male audience for Metallica. The crowds at Vikings games skew male, but not as disproportionately as those two concert crowds, which should help. The packed concourses should be less of an issue after a few games when Vikings season-ticket holders figure out how to find their seats and the novelty of the new venue wears off. Yes, most fans probably will try to enter for the first time through the dramatic pivoting glass doors on the stadium's west side facing downtown, but they'll eventually learn which gates are closest to their seats.
The platforms at nearby light-rail stations remained packed shoulder-to-shoulder long after the soccer match Aug. 3 that served as the initial stress test for the new stadium. It took Metro Transit 90 minutes to send everyone on their way. However, Metro Transit says departing fans had a much easier time catching their buses and trains after the Luke Bryan concert. Metro Transit will be using every available train for Vikings games. Metro Transit also has a dedicated U.S. Stadium page, and it's encouraging fans to buy all-day passes in advance for the same price as a roundtrip, eliminating the need to stand in line for a ticket home.
NOT FREE PARKING
Parking wasn't cheap when the old Metrodome was still standing, and it hasn't gotten any cheaper. Street parking used to cost $15 around the Metrodome. It now costs $25, even several blocks away. A parking spot in the closest lot costs $52, while ramps a few blocks away cost in the $22-$39 range. The Vikings are encouraging fans to buy parking passes in advance, and the team's new app will give them turn-by-turn driving directions from their homes to their lots. Officials have broken up the area surrounding the stadium into four parking zones, for fans coming from the south, west, north and east respectively, to try to ease the confusion and congestion.
Concert-goers panned the acoustics of the new stadium, but it was built for football, not music. And the experience of the inaugural soccer match suggests that the echoes that turned the sound to sludge for Luke Bryan and Metallica could be just the thing for the Vikings. The echoing sound will amp up the roar of the crowd, boosting the energy for the fans and the home-field advantage for the Vikings. The Vikings have predicted that U.S. Bank Stadium will be louder than the legendarily noisy Metrodome. But it'll be up to the fans to make that prediction come true.
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