Avid Vikings fans return to full stadium and win home opener
On Sunday, Minnesota Vikings fans lined up with thousands of people around the angular glass building at the east end of downtown Minneapolis and waited for the doors to open for them for the first time in 636. days.
“I wouldn’t miss this in my life,” said Tom Coleman, who grew up in Minneapolis, lives in Park City, Utah, and remains a season ticket holder. “It’s a celebration to be a Viking fan and to be back with our tribe.”
The homecoming soccer team came on a day when Minnesota sports fans flocked to downtown to see the Twins at Target Field and a crucial Lynx playoff game at Target Center. Ahead of a packed house, the Vikings made the day feel like a big game with fake snow falling from the rafters as part of their new pre-game introduction, with clips from legendary coach Bud Grant and the line. defense known as the Purple People Eaters. Slamming drums and energetic strings accompanied the new introduction played by the Minnesota Orchestra which ended with a promise to bring “all the strength of the North” on the opponents.
Then, as player names were called out, everyone sprinted across the pitch amid plumes of purple smoke to the roaring forceful roar of the crowd. It was a huge change from last year’s deflated near-silence with almost a few hundred fans missing in every game.
Sunday was both disorienting and normal. The Vikings beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-17 thanks to the thunderous sound of 66,729 fans cheering them on. Face masks on fans were rare in crowded halls or in purple seats.
“Welcome to US Bank Stadium, the home of our Minnesota Vikings,” the announcement recorded outside the building announced, adding the sign of the times warning that the CDC recommends face masks “regardless of vaccination status “.
Coleman and his childhood friend Charlie Vrooman of Burnsville have described themselves as Viking fans for 50 years. They said they came down early, hours before the game, to soak up the energy of the recovery. “We really wanted to go out and be with everyone,” Coleman said.
The two said they were both fully vaccinated and would not be wearing masks in the building.
Around noon, more than three hours before game time, the smell of hot bacon grease and kids wafted through the air in nearby parking lots buzzing with tailgaters. Some fans were crowded together, kissing, chatting and laughing.
The queue for cowboy country singer Dustin Lynch’s free concert rolled up on three sides of Commons Park in front of the building.
Mitchell Bigaouette, 20, and Keandra Olson, 18, both from Mankato, wearing Randy Moss and Adam Thielen sweaters respectively, bought their tickets on Saturday, got a hotel room and went on a weekend of match. “Seattle is coming to town, so we thought it would be fun to watch a good game,” he said.
The couple said they weren’t thinking of bringing masks, but would pick up the free ones at the gates. “We both have vaccines, but you still have to be careful,” Olson said.
Johnese Jones and his son Jamar Jackson, 10 and wearing a Thielen jersey, lined up to put on face makeup hours before the game. She looked at everyone gathered and said she was there for the experience. “A year ago, they wouldn’t have done any of this,” she said, adding that she was vaccinated and brought hand sanitizer. “We will wash often and enjoy the game.”
In a queue area and overseeing a very organized party, Bruce Christiansen of St. Cloud had settled in five hours before kick-off. “Oh man, it’s great to be back,” he said. “It’s good to see the excitement at last. It’s been a long wait.”
He said he was vaccinated and would likely hide in crowded areas of the lobby or in the washrooms. “It’s still a little weird, but you’re adjusting,” he said.
But not everyone in his group was ready to come in. Ellie Persian and Michale Sevy from Minneapolis came to Christiansen’s pre-game rally and drank seltzer as they sat in the tailgate of a pickup truck, staying socially distant, not yet ready to approach too close or to come inside for a game. “It’s nice outside,” Sevy said. “But I don’t want to be sitting side by side with someone.”
Across the parking lot, Brian Skalberg and Janet Kurpierz wore Viking face masks as they walked around and checked out the scene. They said they were vaccinated and attending a pre-game meeting, but were also not ready to go inside.
“We wanted to get out of the house, just do something different,” he said.
Then they planned to enjoy the game from a distance. “We’ve been riding our bikes here, so we’re going to take the long way back and watch it over there,” Skalberg said.
As for that fake snow that fell from the roof? There is a lot more to fall for in the next few games.