Bank Stadium Tour Impresses
There’s a classic story about Memorial
Stadium, the on-campus home of the Golden Gophers from 1924-1981. A
group from Notre Dame visited Memorial Stadium in its early days as part
of a tour to learn about building a new football facility for the
Fighting Irish. Legend has it that a member of the group reviewed the
Minnesota stadium and announced: “Gentlemen, this is how not to build a
Old timers become nostalgic talking about
Memorial Stadium but the truth is its faults included mediocre
sightlines, too many seats in the far away bowl end and archaically
crowded rows, ramps, concourses and rest rooms. By 1982 the old facility, named after the state’s World
War I heroes, was in need of major upgrades and school leaders opted to
leave campus for the new Metrodome.
Starting in 2009 the Gophers will be
playing on a piece of property within a pitching wedge shot of the old
Memorial Stadium site, now home to the McNamara Alumni Center. If a tour
last week of the still under construction new TCF Bank Stadium is a
reliable indicator, there won’t be anyone coming to town from Notre Dame
or other colleges to knock the new place.
TCF Bank Stadium will be distinctive in
its newness. Only two other campus stadiums have been built by
major colleges in the last 27 years. When the Gophers play in the
Metrodome, they’re in the newest stadium in the Big Ten Conference by 22
years. When the Gophers are in TCF Bank stadium their home will be
the newest by 48 years.
With much of the structure in place, it’s
easy to grasp a feel for the stadium and environment. The seats are in
close proximity to the field, creating an intimate atmosphere much
different than Memorial Stadium which for much of its existence had a
running track between the stands and the field.
There are 25,000 seats between the goal
lines in the new stadium that will have backs and armrests. The remaining 25,000 will be
benches, like the seating in typical major college stadiums. Among
those having bench seating will be University students who will have a
spectacular view of downtown from the stadium’s bowl end.
The capacity can be expanded by
30,000 if there’s demand for an 80,000 seat stadium. The expansion will
be achieved by adding a third deck to the stadium’s north side,
according to Paul Kitching, construction executive for Mortenson
Construction who led the tour last week.
The larger of the two video boards will be
108 feet by 48 feet, the second biggest in the country on a college
campus after the University of Texas, according to Gene Allen,
director of University relations for TCF Bank. Allen said the video
board surpasses anything similar in the Metrodome.
Size made a major impression on the tour
group, too, when we stopped in the Gopher locker room. Kitching said
it’s 60 yards long and has 120 lockers.
The brick exterior and arched entrances
are similar to Memorial Stadium, providing a nostalgic feel. The names
of all 87 Minnesota counties being placed around the exterior
will help provide a connection for state residents to the stadium
On September 12, 2009 coach Tim
Brewster's Gophers will run out on the field through the bowl end of
the $288 million horseshoe shaped stadium to play Air Force. The
Gophers will be back on campus and flying high.