Recap - Vikings 29, Saints 19
I started the day with an early morning breakfast and gas up at the local Kwik Trip, then hit the road for a 5-hour drive across I-94 to Minneapolis for the Monday night opener.
It was a perfect day for a drive. Lot’s of sunshine, clear roads, lots of beautiful pine groves along the way – but it was a long frigging drive. Luckily, I found the the perfect pit stop in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. That is the home to the Leinkugel’s Brewery (one of my favorite beers ) and the ‘Leine Lodge’. After spending an hour or so there (and avoiding the temptation to sample since I still had a lot of highway ahead of me) I continued on crossing into Minnesota and eventually to Minneapolis and my hotel.
Unlike my last trip here when I saw the Twins in 2015, I ventured out from the downtown area into some of the other interesting neighborhoods (The North Loop, The Warehouse District, Lowry Hill, Chain of Lakes, etc.) It's an ideal big city to live in at least from May through September.
Around 6 PM I headed over to the stadium to give myself plenty of time. It was only a 20 minute walk from my hotel in the Warehouse District. The neighborhood around US Bank is still being built up and doesn’t have all of the activity and dining options that is nearby Target Field, but you can see they are headed there.
It’s hard to find adequate words to describe the contrast from yesterday, where I went to the oldest stadium in the NFL to today where I’m attending a game in this beautiful, ultra-modern, state of the art venue. The first impression of the stadium was striking. The building has a black zinc façade with a carbon steel surface with large glass panels along the roof and sides.
Most fans enter the stadium through the Medtronic Plaza which is a huge gateway to the stadium featuring a 160 foot long beautifully detailed Vikings ship. The ship has a 2,000 square foot curved LED videoscreen in the shape of a sail. The plaza is a central meeting point for fans.
The interior of the stadium is even more impressive than the outside. Your senses are immediately overtaken by a sea of purple. Despite being in a stadium with a fixed roof, 60% of the roof and side panels (aka Legacy Gate) are glass which not only lets in all the sunshine that you’d get at an outdoor venue, but also offers up some great views of Minneapolis.
Once inside US Bank Stadium, there is no question you are at the home of the Vikings as over 66,000 purple seats surround the playing field. A nice feature of the stadium is “Vikings Voyage”, an interactive fan space that gives you the opportunity to participate in combine-themed events, including catching passes while wearing a virtual reality Vikings helmet, running the three-cone drill against a current Vikings player's pace and hitting a tackling sled that measures impact force.
U.S. Bank Stadium has a collection of hundreds of pieces of art, specifically commissioned from primarily local Minnesota artists including artwork by former Vikings coach Bud Grant and former players Jim Marshall and Carl Eller.
The start of the game begins with the “Skol” chant accompanied by the pounding drums – starting off slow and loud and building faster and louder, then the Vikings players storm onto the field through a Viking Ship, which features a fire breathing dragon at its masthead. This chant is repeated many many many times throughout the game as is the blowing of the alpine-horn every time the Vikes make a first down. Fun at first, not so much by the 4th quarter. Noise levels at US Bank can reach ear splitting proportion. Tonight, being opening day, gave me some prime examples of this.
The food offerings were good as well including local favorites like Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon and Stable, Ike’s Food & Cocktails and great fried chicken from Revival Restaurant. The Vikings wanted to showcase some of the great tastes and flavors of the region, and the team partnered with 20 local restaurants to bring the idea to life.
The fans were all enthusiastic and riled up, but still maintained their mid-west hospitality. It was opening night and they have a great team that may just make it to the Super Bowl which, by the way, will be played right here at US Bank Stadium this year.
The game was the first as a Saint for former Viking great and future hall of fame running back Adrian Petersen. The Saints jumped out to an early lead on a Wil Lutz FG, but it was all Vikings after that. Sam Bradford passed for 346 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Stefon Diggs, to lead the Vikings to a 29-19 win and spoil Adrian Peterson's first game with the Saints. Petersen was a bit of a disappointment with only 18 yards on 6 carries, while Viking rookie Dalvin Cook made a splash in his NFL debut with 122 yards rushing and 3 receptions.
A real treat was the halftime number retirement of the great Viking hall of fame wideout Randy Moss.
Tonight's game was an early start for a Monday night game (since on opening day there are actually 2 games on Monday night – one early and one late) so the streets were still hoping. I made my way to one of the many packed watering holes on 3rd Avenue and watched the Denver – San Diego game. Tomorrow it’s back on the road up north to Duluth to enjoy some Lake Superior kayaking and cycling on the north shore.
Fans - A - Friendly, fun, enthusiastic. Lots of 'opening day' energy
Features - A+ - Medtronic Plaza. Viking ship entrance , Legacy gate, Vikings Voyage, all the natural sunlight for an indoor stadium, the 'Skol' chant, etc.
Location - A - Walking distance to great and lively neighborhoods, close to mass transit
Food - A - Lots of great options - local fare - Leienekugels
Game - B - Close at first then all Vikes. Nice performance by Bradford and Cook
Overall Experience - A+ - A great day in the city and a great night at a wonderful stadium. I can't think of a single negative thing to say about this place.