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New opening: Read about Minnesota Vikings' new US$1.1bn fan-friendly home

NFL team Minnesota Vikings has been given the keys to its new home, the U.S. Bank Stadium. The US$1.1bn, multi-use venue places fans at the heart of everything and has already been chosen to host the 2018 Super Bowl

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 11 Jul 2016 issue 124
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The finishing touches are being added to the stadium, due to open later this month / Jim Mone/AP/Press Association Images
The finishing touches are being added to the stadium, due to open later this month/ Jim Mone/AP/Press Association Images

National Football League (NFL) franchise Minnesota Vikings will move into its new, US$1.1bn home on 22 July. Designed by HKS Architects, the 70,000-capacity U.S. Bank Stadium has taken nearly three years to build and will be one of the most versatile stadiums in the US, capable of hosting American football and soccer as well as baseball, basketball, motocross and large-scale concerts and other non-sport events.

Touted as the latest in a new breed of fan-friendly stadiums, the innovative design concept is based on two concourses running through the venue, allowing fans “360-degree” access to every corner. When exploring the stadium and its multitude of F&B and retail offerings from the concourses, fans will be able to enjoy the action on the field either from various viewing points or from one of more than 2,000 HD flat screen TVs.

SUPER BOWL READY
The stadium is owned by Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), a public body created by the State of Minnesota in 2012 to oversee the stadium project. Vikings are the main tenant and have provided US$577m (£441m) of the funding which, at 53 per cent of the stadium’s total capital costs, is an NFL record for a public-private funding agreement.

The public contribution towards the project stands at $498m (£381m), while additional funding – around US$12m (£9.2m) – has come from stadium operator SMG. The US firm currently manages more than 200 facilities worldwide – including four other NFL stadiums – and has secured a deal with MSFA to manage the venue for the first 10 years.

According to MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen, SMG was appointed partly thanks to its experience in hosting Super Bowls – an event U.S. Bank Stadium has secured for 2018. “SMG facilities have hosted nine Super Bowls over the years,” Kelm-Helgen says.

“The group’s experience will be a fantastic asset as we prepare for Super Bowl LII in 2018 and other large-scale events that we are competing to host. SMG already runs venues for a number of public agencies like ours and has a proven track record of fiscal success, which will help take advantage of this new venue.”

SEATING PLANS
Spread across 38 acres, the stadium’s maximum capacity is 73,000 and it boasts 120 corporate suites and 7,500 premium club seats. In total, there will be 18 different styles of seating and VIP areas, including the exclusive “Touchdown Suites” located close to the end zone.

It will also be one of the most accessible stadiums in the NFL, with 690 wheelchair and companion seats to be located throughout all seating levels. An additional 140 wheelchair spaces will be made available within the corporate and VIP suites, loge spaces and club areas. The stadium will also comply with all federal ADA requirements.

FOOD HEAVEN
Food is an important part of life within the state of Minnesota, and this aspect is reflected at the new stadium. Working together with F&B specialist Aramark, which will operate the concessions at the stadium, the Vikings have teamed up with Minnesota-based celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern and a number of other local restaurateurs to develop a menu showcasing local tastes and highlighting the region’s distinctive culture and cuisine.

There will be a wide range of restaurants, with Zimmern personally taking control of two flagship eateries – called Rotisserie and Hoagies. “The Rotisserie will include a whole animal barbecue offering,” Zimmern explains. “Hoagies, meanwhile, will be an Italian restaurant with a local twist.”

According to Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf, “getting food right” is increasingly important for new, modern stadia aiming to become destinations such as the U.S. Bank Stadium, where people spend time before and after the events. “The dining experience is a crucial component of our commitment to providing a memorable game day,” Wilf says. “Our culinary partners, along with Aramark’s menu and the ways in which we will serve our fans, will significantly enhance the hospitality experience.”

FAN EXPERIENCES
According to Wilf, the aim has been to place the fan at the heart of every aspect of the new venue. “U.S. Bank Stadium was designed with the fan experience as the number one priority,” he says. “To give you just one example, we’ve made sure the seats will be closer to the field than at any other NFL stadium.”

Wilf adds that fan engagement will begin even before supporters enter the stadium. A giant replica viking boat – the ‘Legacy Ship’ – has been built outside the venue, featuring a 2,000sq ft (186sq m) curved LED screen acting as the vessel’s sail.

As well as the giant screen, the structure will include linear displays featuring historic Viking moments and thousands of ‘Legacy Bricks’ – personalised engraved bricks purchased by fans.

Designed by experience branding firm RipBang Studios, the ship is modelled on a similar replica ship located outside the team’s current training facility in the city’s Winter park – which has become a firm favourite among visiting fans.

“We wanted to recreate the feature in a significantly enhanced way at U.S. Bank Stadium in order to give Vikings fans a new game day ritual and a perfect welcome to their game experience,” Wilf says.

The first sporting event at the stadium will see Italian giants AC Milan play English club Chelsea on 3 August as part of the International Champions Cup.

Secondary stadium

To compliment the new U.S. Bank Stadium, The Vikings have announced plans to build a new training complex and a 10,000-capacity stadium on a 194-acre piece of land in Minnesota’s Eagan district. As well as providing the Vikings with a new training base, the plans include a mixed-use development housing the franchise’s headquarters.

Split up into seven zones, the project will also include two hotels, a large conference centre, retail space, offices and a residential development. In addition, public pedestrian and cycle trails are being planned for the plot.

The Vikings have announced plans to build a new training complex
The Vikings have announced plans to build a new training complex
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