Metrodome at least built memories that last

The Metrodome on its final MLB opening day in 2009.

There probably is no shortage of Minnesota Vikings fans lamenting Sunday’s victory against the Detroit Lions in the team’s regular-season finale. The Vikings were not in playoff contention, meaning the win only worsened the team’s draft position.

But I was glad to see the Vikings win in what marked the final major sporting event in the history of the Metrodome. The stadium deserved to go out with one last win.

The Metrodome was the stadium of my childhood. Often ripped by visiting players and coaches – and a lot of home fans too – during my youth for its appearance and its many shortcomings, there was no other place I’d rather be.

The eye-popping inflatable roof masked what was a pretty plain-looking stadium on the inside. The sightlines were terrible for baseball, which was more often than not the reason I was at the Metrodome. The turf – especially in its early days – looked like anything but grass.

But I sure loved being there. I first stepped into the Metrodome in the summer of 1987. My parents took my younger brother and I to our first Twins game. This was the summer that saw the Twins surprisingly in a fight for the AL West title. The season would end with Minnesota winning its first World Series.

But on that summer day, my mind was not at all focused on the standings. I was too in awe of the seemingly endless white roof over our heads or the big blue baggie in right field. There was Kirby Puckett in center field, the idol of my childhood. And, of course, who could forget the feeling of being pushed out of the stadium’s doors by air pressure when it was all over. Man, that was a rush, especially when you’re a first-grader going there for the first time.

My best memory was attending Game 163 in the 2009 season. MLB Network placed that game in its top 20 list that it broadcast a couple years back. It was a wild back-and-forth game that saw the Twins outlast the Detroit Tigers in a playoff tiebreaker, sending the Twins to the ALDS thanks to Alexi Casilla driving home Carlos Gomez for the winning run.

I remember after that game sitting at a Minneapolis bar with my co-worker Tom Mix and one of his friends. We had gone to the game just for fun, not to cover it. We were all just speechless afterwards at that bar, knowing we’d never go to a game quite as crazy as that one, especially considering what was on the line. I attended the ALDS Game 3 against the Yankees, which ultimately proved to be the final MLB game at the Metrodome, as the Twins got swept in the series.

The Metrodome was a lot of things. A baseball stadium should never have been one of them.

But it’s the big events that ultimately matter when you reflect on a stadium’s life. Whether it was watching the 1987 and 1991 World Series on TV or attending game’s like the 2009 AL Central tiebreaker, the Metrodome did have a lot to offer over the decades. And I’ll miss it. Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium and the new Vikings stadium have big shoes to fill.

Photos and more from Bears-Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium

Chicago Bears lined up on offense.

Outdoor football was everything I thought it would be, and I have the pictures to prove it.

As I mentioned Tuesday morning on this blog, I had a great time at the Chicago Bears-Minnesota Vikings game on Monday night, which was moved to TCF Bank Stadium after the Metrodome’s roof collapsed.

Ultimately, I think the Vikings will get approval for a new stadium. Seems like some momentum could build after the Metrodome’s problems.

There’s no doubt the Vikings made money on Monday night. They wouldn’t spend $700K to clear the field if they weren’t. But I’m sure they didn’t make nearly as much as they normally do for home games.

And my guess is their new stadium will have a roof or a retractable roof. Doesn’t seem to make much sense to have three new outdoors stadiums in the Twin Cities without building one that’s enclosed.

Anyway, here are a few photos from the game. Captions are beneath each photo.

Players warm up prior to Monday's game.

Robbie Gould kicks off to start the game.Chicago Bears lined up on offense.Was this the final time we'll see Brett Favre on a football field?

Was this the final time we'll see Brett Favre on a football field?

TCF proves to be a big hit for fans

In the end, it’s safe to say Monday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears went off mostly without a hitch.

Yeah, there was a fan that ran onto the field and had to be restrained by security. And I’m sure all of the snow piling up on the streets led to a couple of accidents going to and from the game. But after attending Monday night’s game, I don’t recall hearing a single person say, “It is too cold. I’m leaving.” Instead, in the fourth quarter, it was, “The Vikings stink. I’m leaving.” Most people filed out with about nine minutes to play after Chicago’s Chris Harris intercepted a Joe Webb pass.

TCF Bank Stadium provided a pretty unique setting for football. For one night, the state became, “The Land of 10,000 Handwarmers.” And I loved it.

Everything about last night’s game felt like something from an NFL Films video. In fact, they had NFL Films videos from the Met Stadium days playing as fans waited for the game to start. You even had the 50 greatest Vikings players honored at halftime.

It didn’t take long before someone in our section decided to go shirtless. I don’t think that guy even waited until kickoff.

And despite the “no alcohol” policy on the University of Minnesota campus, I can assure you there were a few people who had one too many either prior to or during that game last night.

My group got its seats in the upper deck, and we even managed to avoid the bleachers, which was good. It was windy and cold. I won’t lie. I did slip on a facemask from time to time to protect my chin. But I couldn’t be happier about deciding to attend that game.

I’ll post photos as soon as I can. Wanted to get a few quick thoughts out there now while I had time.

Good news: Vikings confident everyone with tickets can attend Monday’s game

There are some encouraging quotes from Minnesota Vikings Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix on the team’s website regarding Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears, which had to be moved to TCF Bank Stadium after the Metrodome’s roof caved in last weekend.

TCF

TCF Bank Stadium looks ready to rock for Monday Night Football. Associated Press photo

LaCroix is fairly confident that everyone that wants to attend the game and has tickets will be able to do so. Parking sounds like the biggest concern the team has in playing a game at the University of Minnesota campus.

That’s good to hear. Out-of-towners should feel pretty confident that they will be able to get into TCF. It’s still first-come, first-served. So if you want good seats, you better still go early. I heard they might be looking at a little less than 50,000 attending, so standing-room spots hopefully won’t be necessary.

TCF has about 13,000 fewer seats than the Metrodome.

Week 15 picks

Most of my time this week is focused on my fantasy football team, which is still alive in the semifinals of my 16-team league. I’ve racked my brain over whether to start Pierre Garcon or Danny Woodhead (who is WR-eligible in Yahoo) all week and will continue to do so until prior to Sunday’s Colts kickoff at noon. I know Garcon caught two TDs last week, but he lets me down every time I start him.

Anyway, I had a monster week in the picks last week, going 5-0 after nearly forgetting to post any picks. Glad I got some posted. I’m at 35-25 this season. Here you go for this weekend:

  • Dallas by 6 over Washington. Cowboys
  • New York Giants by 3 over Philadelphia. Eagles
  • Cincinnati by 1 over Cleveland. Bengals
  • Miami by 6 1/2 over Buffalo. Bills
  • Oakland by 6 1/2 over Denver. Raiders

In face of stadium dilemma, greed rises from ice-covered stadium

I was completely shocked upon hearing that the Minnesota Vikings are going with a first-come, first-serve scenario when it comes to Monday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

In the Minneapolis Star Tribune story, some season tickets holders are threatening to not renew their season tickets. I can’t blame them.

In a week full of headaches, the Vikings have created another one. This time, Mother Nature can’t get all of the blame.

Obviously, with the 64,000-seat Metrodome out of commission, some fans are going to get left out with the game moving to 51,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium. But this wasn’t the way to figure that out.

Do a ticket lottery. Just tell the fans with the worst seats at the Metrodome that they can’t go because there isn’t room at TCF. Make a decision. But don’t do this.

I’m looking at it from the perspective of out-of-town fans in places like Fargo-Moorhead or even Chicago. What are they supposed to do? Make the cross-state or cross-region drive to the Twin Cities and hope that they can get in?

The problem with the scenarios I gave above is that if some of those people given approval to go to the game opted for refunds instead, the Vikings wouldn’t have a packed house. In a week where they will spend at least $700,000 clearing out a stadium, plus losing out on money made from the sale of beer and having to refund 13,000 ticket holders, somehow the fans are the ones that come out as losers.

The way this has been handled is unfortunate. I know there isn’t a page in the franchise ownership manual for handling a crisis like this, but I would have liked to see the Vikings improvise a little better than this.

So to you F-M fans out there with tickets to Monday’s game, good luck. I hope you’re not left out in the cold.

Football outside? You know you love it!

I have to admit that it just seems right that the Minnesota Vikings will honor their 50th anniversary team with a setting more like the one most of the players in franchise history played in. Of course, that’s ignoring the fact that, to steal a line from the movie “Grumpy Old Men,” it will be “butt cold” outside.

TCF

Crews are already working to clear the snow off of TCF Bank Stadium's field. Associated Press photo via the Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Vikings will host the first-place – I sure love saying that – Chicago Bears on Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota. It was determined on Tuesday that the Metrodome will not be ready to host the team’s home final.

There are so many storylines to follow this week. Will the NFL get a waiver to allow alcohol to be sold at the on-campus stadium that doesn’t allow the sale of it? How can the Vikings handle the fact that the Metrodome seats about 13,000 more people than TCF? Who gets left out in the cold, so to speak?

It’s been a drama-filled season for the Vikings, and once again Brett Favre is in the mix too. Interim coach Leslie Frazier actually said Tuesday that he might play on Monday.

Metrodome roof collapse video, and NFL picks

Here’s some video of the Metrodome roof collapse:

Here are some late NFL picks. Went 4-1 last week to put me at 30-25 this season. It’s 2:30 right now, so I’ll just do games that start at 3 or later:

  • Eagles by 3 over Cowboys. Eagles
  • Jets by 6 over Dolphins. Dolphins
  • Chargers by 7 over Chiefs. Chargers
  • Giants by 2 over Vikings. Giants
  • Ravens by 3 over Texans. Ravens

Some late-morning links

A few items worth reading:

Vikings’ stadium situation heats up

The Minnesota Vikings are not happy about a Metrodome lease proposal, and they weren’t afraid to let their landlord know about it.

The Vikings sent a letter to Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission saying that a new lease proposal is not something they’re interested in, saying that such a proposal threatens the team’s future in the Twin Cities.

Words were not minced in this letter, which I found on the Star Tribune’s Web site. The team said it was "shocked" and "extremely disappointed" by the proposal.

To sum it up, the Metrodome proposal would have allowed the Vikings to continue to play rent-free for two more seasons after the current lease expires in 2011. Apparently, the MSFC has allowed the Vikings to play rent-free at the Metrodome for the last seven seasons despite their lease. If the Vikings refuse the current proposal, the team would be force to start paying $4 million per year in rent again.

This stadium debate is getting ugly, and the timing could not be worse considering the team’s 8-1 start. It’s been a while since interest was this high in a Vikings season, probably dating back to at least 1998.

I will say time and time again that I just don’t see how the Vikings can get a new stadium in this current economic climate. To me, if they’re really committed to staying in Minnesota, they’d be better off signing a short-term lease extension like this and waiting out the recession a little while longer.

I can’t blame the Vikings for not wanting to do this right now, because there is no rush. But judging from their reaction, this is not something they’re interested in doing now or at any point in the future.

Mayhem at the Metrodome

Radio show’s over, so I got a little time to write about last night’s game.

I’m still just in shock over how great that game was. There are just so many unbelievable moments from the game that I’m just going to go one-by-one with them:

  • First off, all I hoped for was a game that was remotely close to the Colorado Rockies-San Diego Padres one-game playoff in 2007. I think last night’s game definitely matched that in terms of drama and the up-and-down feel of it.
  • The M-V-P chants for Joe Mauer will always stand out. I’ve never heard that place so loud in my life as I did when Mauer came up for his like third or fourth at-bat and the place was going hog wild with "M-V-P."
  • Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera ended up on the wrong side of a few chants by the Dome faithful. In different at-bats, chants of "alcoholic" and "point 2-6" could be heard. He blew a .26 blood-alcohol level early Saturday morning after his alleged involvement in a domestic dispute.
  • During the seventh inning – which I believe is the last inning beer vendors can sell beer at the Metrodome – I heard one of them say that they were completely out of cold beer. They had nothing but warm beer left! Yeah, really! I guess there were a lot of reasons to enjoy the Dome the last few nights.
  • How many times did you think that game was over in favor of the Tigers or the Twins? When Orlando Cabrera hit that homer, I thought the Twins had the game in hand. When Detroit put runners at the corners against Joe Nathan, I thought the Tigers were going to win. Then, Alexi Casilla got thrown out at the plate in the 10th inning for what would have been the winning run. And Twins pitcher Bobby Keppel loaded the bases with one out in the top of the 12th before getting out of it.

And as fast as Carlos Gomez made his mad dash toward home plate for the Twins’ winning run in the bottom of the 12th, I grabbed my jacket and sprinted up the Metrodome steps and outside to try and get to the ticket office to nab American League Division Series tickets for Sunday and Monday, which happen to be my days off.

The scene outside the Metrodome after the winning run crossed was pretty surreal. Everyone in the ticket lines just started chanting, "Go Twins go! Go Twins go!" You’re standing in line with people you’ve never met before and will never see again, talking about how ridiculous the events that had just transpired were.

It was a memorable night at the Metrodome. And once again, I found myself walking into the Dome last night thinking it was the last time I’d ever step foot in there. And once again, I have tickets for a future game there.

For as many years as the Twins spent trying to get rid of that place, the Metrodome sure is resilient. It simply won’t go away.