A University supporter holds the football high during one of the final legs of the Gopher Football Relay.
U breaks ground for new stadium
By Rick Moore
Oct. 2, 2006
The symbolism of the picture-perfect day on Saturday was not lost on fans of Gopher football. Hundreds of them showed up to "bring football back to campus" by transporting a real football in a human relay from the Metrodome to the site of the new on-campus football stadium at the Huron Avenue parking complex.
Hundreds more showed up there--the future home of TCF Bank Stadium--for the ceremonial stadium groundbreaking at 2 p.m. They cheered and clapped and sang as the University of Minnesota Marching Band played The Rouser and led the relay procession to the site, with President Bob Bruininks carrying the ball to the stage and the mound of dirt.
It was sunny and about 75 degrees, with a pleasant breeze that swirled the freshly fallen leaves. And all day, almost every step of the way, fans commented on what a perfect day it would be to watch football outdoors.
They'll get their chance in the fall of 2009, when the new 50,000-seat stadium is set to open.
The groundbreaking program included remarks by Bruininks, Athletics Director Joel Maturi, head football coach Glen Mason and Back to Campus campaign co-chairs Nancy and John Lindahl.
The Gopher Football Relay featured hundreds of U supporters and celebrities, including former football players and current Gopher athletes. There were scores of small children, too, who handled the ball and posed for pictures. Speaking of pictures, the Heisman Trophy pose ruled the day for those wanting to ham it up with the pigskin.
Former Gopher football coach Murray Warmath kicked off the relay outside of the Metrodome's Gate C on 11th Avenue, and other official ball carriers walked the ball a short distance before handing it off to the next carrier. The relay traveled down 11th Avenue to Washington Avenue, east on Washington to the Law School on the West Bank, along the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge, and finally down Northrop Mall and the Scholars Walk to the McNamara Alumni Center. In the final leg of the relay, Bruininks accepted the football at the stadium site from a pair of children who represented the future generations of Gopher football fans.
While Bruininks joked at the groundbreaking ceremony that there'll never be a rainy Saturday with the new stadium, no one even seemed put off by that prospect, having just heard the marching band perform outdoors on University Avenue amidst an ocean of maroon and gold.
There was but one downside to the day's football festivities. Later in the evening Michigan defeated Minnesota 28-14 to reclaim the Little Brown Jug that the Gophers won last year in Ann Arbor.