Saturday marked one of the biggest moments in the Vikings' transition to TCF Bank Stadium for the next two years. It wasn't a player signing or a sponsor agreement. It was the long-awaited opening of the Green Line.
For those unfamiliar with the Green Line, it is the light rail system that opened Saturday connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul and likely will be the most used rail line in the light rail system that extends out like spokes in a wheel. What makes it vital to the Vikings is that one of the stops on the new line is going to be in front of TCF Bank Stadium and will be a critical link for the Vikings parking/tailgating plan.
The Vikings first foray into playing at The Bank came in 2010 when the Metrodome roof collapsed and the Vikings had to find other accommodations on the fly to play the final home game on its schedule. The quick turnaround to the University of Minnesota's stadium was a logistical nightmare. There was gridlock outside the stadium before and after the game, but it should be noted the weather was brutal and little to no preparation had been made other than to inform fans the game had been moved to a new location.
Much the same could potentially be on the horizon with the two-year move to The Bank … if not for the Green Line. Thanks to the new linking of the Twin Cities, the Green Line will run from downtown St. Paul to Target Field and fans can cut out the middle man when it comes from getting from Point A to Point B in terms of traveling to TCF Bank Stadium.
The NFL did the Vikings a favor of sorts in the first year of their two-year outdoor experiment. Every home game after September this season will take place at noon on Sundays – typically low-traffic times by comparison to prime time games, which typically butt heads with rush hour traffic that leads to slow-and-go driving and bumper-to-bumper vehicle movement.
The Vikings are expected to announce their parking/tailgating game plan in the next week or two as they try to retrofit an NFL game experience to an area not accustomed to the volume of traffic Vikings games will bring. With approximately 10,000 more fans expected to attend Vikings games than currently attend Gophers games, the pressure on the road infrastructure could have been a potential headache for the next two years, but the opening of the Green Line is expected to be the release valve on that pressure and a means by which thousands of fans will make their way to and from games.
The Vikings are a sponsor of the Green Line stop that will be in Vikings Village on game days at The Bank and are counting on fans using that avenue of accessing games. It's a viable alternative for those who may be enjoying the outdoor experience with a few adult beverages. It's also an alternative for those who don't want to pay the price of parking. Depending on how many people come in a group of ticket holders, the anticipated $25-30 parking fees in lots surrounding The Bank could be defrayed by taking the Green Line to within a block or two of the stadium doors.
Saturday's opening of the Green Line ends a plan that has been on the board for more than 30 years – the first discussion of connecting the Twin Cities via railroad was held in 1980. About 35 years later, it finally came through and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Vikings and their fans. For those who balked at attending games at The Bank due to the gridlock that took place in the first Vikings game played at the stadium now have a viable alternative to driving to the game that is both efficient and cost-effective.
Of all the days that have been important in the transition of the Vikings from the Metrodome to their yet-to-be-named stadium, June 14 may not jump out to historians years down the line. But make no mistake, the game experience has been enhanced by the ability to have tens of thousands of fans reach the stadium without having to deal with campus-area parking. The Green Line may not seem like a sports story, but for many fans who will be attending Vikings games at the University of Minnesota the next two years, the opening of the Green Line may be one of the more important moments in the Vikings' two-year displacement from their home base.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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