It resembles a Viking ship. Fans celebrate Norse lore inside. US Bank Stadium – home of the Minnesota Vikings – honors the region’s Scandinavian heritage throughout. None bigger than on game day, when more than 66,000 fans – dressed in purple and gold – chant “SKOL!” and cheer the team to victory.
For me, a Vikings fan since I started following football as a 9-year-old, it’s the ultimate sports site. The stadium is in its second year of operation. I tried to book a tour last year, but every spot was booked from August through February. So, when I saw an opening, I jumped at it. Dressed in my Viking garb, I joined 39 fellow fans to take a 90-minute tour through the best stadium in the National Football League.
The view of the field from atop the lower bowl sent chills through me. It reminded me of scenes from movies where players walk out of the tunnel and see their playing field for the first time – reminiscent of clouds parting and the sun shining through to spotlight it. Man, what a feeling!
Purple seats ring the field. The Vikings logo highlights the field with its larger than life presence at midfield. “Vikings” painted in the end zone with a classic font style. This is Minnesota Vikings football!
Psyched for the tour, we headed off to the party zones – sections of the stadium sponsored by local companies, such as Mystic Lake Casino. The casino sponsors Club Purple, where the fan assigned to this area can enjoy food and drink inside the lounge area, as well as sit on purple sofas to watch the action.
In addition to clubs, the stadium offers a variety of suites, designed as suites, cabins and lodges. It’s Minnesota, so you have to have something with a cabin theme, right? The exterior to the suite resembles a wood cabin you may see anywhere in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” The stadium dedicates the Vikings Legends cabin for former players and coaches to use during game day.
Art plays a big role in celebrating the Vikings history at US Bank Stadium. Art created by former players, such as Matt Blair’s photography of casual moments with teammates and coaches, as well as Carl Eller’s hand crafted bowls honoring Minnesota’s lake country, dot walls around the stadium’s corridors.
A special painting jumped at me. It featured the late Prince – a big Vikings fan – in a scene from his concert during the 2007 Super Bowl. The uniqueness of the piece is that the painting consists of lyrics from his songs. When you look closely at the painting, you see the words, painted in purple and gold. Nicholas Schleif created the piece, as well as another painting of coaching legend Bud Grant, using words related to the coach.
US Bank Stadium displays the helmets of each Minnesota high school fielding a team. It helps recognize the importance these communities and schools bring to the sport.
As we traveled to the lower level of the stadium, we came upon the Delta 360 Club. Here, fans have a field level view of the action on game day. They also are the ones who cheer on the team as players make their walk through the tunnel out to the stadium. The path from the locker room to the sidelines runs through the Delta 360 area. It adds to the game day experience.
Speaking of the locker room – wow! As soon as you walk in, you see photos of players from the past -the players, whose names appear on the Ring of Honor in the stadium. The locker room seating divides players by offense and defense. The chairs are purple with the Vikings logo in the middle of the cushioned backrest.
The team’s logo clutches the ceiling. The stainless steel figure looms large over the room. The reason for it being on the ceiling and not on the floor, as other teams do, is because some players believe it’s bad luck to step on your logo.
We walked the walk 53 Vikings players take every home game, from the locker room through the tunnel to the Delta Club. Along the way, we passed five Gokstad shields; wooden shields used by Vikings during battle. Minnesota’s shields feature the Viking “V” on the center shield.
On the field
I was in Nirvana when the tour guide led us on to the Vikings sideline. We weren’t allowed to walk on the actual playing surface due to pregame preparations. However, it didn’t matter. I stood on the Vikings sideline, next to the benches. This is where the Vikings stars of today stand during the game – Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Harrison Smith, Linval Joseph, Adam Thielen, et al. To be that close to the Vikings logo, the end zone, as well as the rest of game action made my day. I’ve stood on other teams’ turf as part of tours, but this meant so much more to me.
As you stand on the field, you notice how bright it is inside a stadium. US Bank Stadium has a fixed roof, because officials didn’t think a retractable roof would work in Minnesota. There would be very games where it would be worth having an open-air stadium. Instead, the stadium’s design incorporated as much natural light as possible. The roof and some windows allow natural lighting.
ETFE (plastic-like material) provides a strong roof while allowing natural light to shine into US Bank Stadium. The panels resemble fluffy see-through pillows. A heating system melts any snow that may fall on the roof. The snowmelt falls into 40 feet deep and 20 feet wide gutters atop the stadium.
Inside, the main windows open to allow fresh air and light in to the stadium. The panels range in size, with the largest being the size of a National Basketball Association playing court.
Looking up, I could see the Gjallarhorn – a massive sound system for the stadium to announce the arrival of the Vikings. Historically, a Gjallarhorn announced the arrival of Norse gods. More than 100 former Vikings players and coaches, as well as celebrities, have “announced” the team’s arrivals through the years. The current Gjallarhorn is in its second season. The previous one snapped in half two seasons ago during a playoff game in January, the fourth coldest game in NFL history.
I’ve started knocking items off my Minnesota Vikings bucket list. First, I saw my first Minnesota preseason camp (and last one in Mankato). I toured US Bank Stadium. Next, we have tickets for Sunday’s match-up against the Los Angeles Rams at the stadium. I think I’ll consider the bucket list completed should I ever meet Fran Tarkenton and other great Vikings players, as well as celebrate a Minnesota Super Bowl victory (I know. I know. 0-4 in the Super Bowl).
If you have a trip planned for the Twin Cities, or love stadiums, you need to tour US Bank Stadium.
One more thing – Skol Vikings!