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Game days on campus are just around the corner

By Rick Moore

Stadium 165
TCF Bank Stadium during winter construction.
Photos courtesy of Mortenson Construction

March 5, 2009

The last time the Gophers played a football game on campus, they made sure it was dramatic.

When quarterback Mike Hohensee connected with Chester Cooper on a 4-yard touchdown pass with less than 11 minutes remaining, Minnesota took a 21-20 lead against Wisconsin in the 91st meeting between the two rivals. But the Badgers responded with a late scoring drive of their own to claim a 26-21 victory and Paul Bunyan's Axe.

If you don't remember that game, it's understandable. November 21, 1981, was a long, long time ago. (You might sooner remember Laura and Luke getting married on General Hospital five days earlier.) In fact, a vast majority of current University students weren't even born. Twenty-seven football seasons and 1,447 weeks will have passed between that final game at Memorial Stadium and the first game at the new TCF Bank Stadium on September 12, 2009.

A lot has changed on campus in that time. And on September 12, things will change again--dramatically.

A different feel to campus

"Do you remember the thrill of being at Memorial Stadium on a crisp fall afternoon for a Golden Gopher football game? Sitting in the sun. Soaking up the sharp scents of autumn. Feeling chills run down your spine as the marching band leads thousands of cheering Gopher fans in The Rouser. The cheers and music echoing around the Brickhouse after a Gopher touchdown, and then scattering in the breeze to spread the word across campus."

Contract Parking on Game Days

The University is expecting more than 50,000 people to come to campus on game days, transforming the Twin Cities campus into a highly energized and highly spirited environment.

Parking on game days will be different, to say the least. To ensure game-day parking is well-coordinated, season-ticket holders will select their season parking locations when they select their seat locations this spring. This means they will return to the same parking facility for every game, easing traffic congestion and other parking issues.

Faculty and staff with University parking contracts will be able to use their contract parking, but not in their regular contract locations. Employees holding contracts on the East Bank will park in the East River Road Garage, West Bank contract holders will park in the 21st Avenue Ramp, and St. Paul contract holders will park in the Gortner Ramp. Questions about contract parking can be sent to parking.

That evocative language was the opening section in a publication a few years ago designed to get people excited for a new on-campus football stadium. It may not be the exact picture for every football game on campus--it being hard to guarantee sunshine in these parts--but for seven Saturdays in 2009, the Twin Cities campus will be transformed.

The campus will be teeming with fans. Stadium Village (that's right, the "stadium" is back in Stadium Village) and Dinkytown will be abuzz. And the sharp scents of autumn will be enhanced with the distinct scents of food cooking on grills from tailgating.

A whole generation of fans has missed out on the true "game-day experience" of Big Ten football, and the University has gone to great lengths to ensure that when fans come to campus, they will be awash in that experience--with a decidedly maroon and gold flavor.

Season tickets for the inaugural season have been sold out since last fall and most premium seating is nearly sold out as well, a sure sign of the excitement our new stadium is bringing to Gopher fans everywhere.

Additionally, 10,000 tickets have been held for students, who undoubtedly enhance the collegiate game day atmosphere as much as any other fan. Students should watch for details about how they can get the inaugural season ticket in the coming weeks with sales to begin this April.

Teams of U employees have studied the game-day experiences on other campuses--some even making visits to other campuses similar in size and location (urban) in the Big Ten and elsewhere--to see what works best, and what might be improved on in Minnesota. And that effort stretches across a host of related University departments, including Athletics, Student Affairs, the Alumni Association, Parking and Transportation, the Provost's Office, University Services, and University Relations.

A view inside the stadium
A view inside the stadium

This enormous effort, which began over a year ago and includes a steering committee and six subcommittees, is co-chaired by Joel Maturi, director of athletics, and Laurie Scheich, associate vice president for Auxiliary Services.

"Bringing football back to campus is exciting on many fronts, as TCF Bank Stadium will help to create a culture on campus that we've been missing for almost three decades," says Maturi. "The stadium will be a campus-wide asset. It will not only be football's new home, but will also serve as a venue for many other events and programs, including the band, recreational sports, and kinesiology classes."

Scheich points out just how extensive the consultative process has been. "Planning efforts have been ongoing for well over a year, and a wide variety of constituents--both on-campus and off-campus--have been involved," she says. "We are doing all that we can to make sure we have a smooth game-day experience for all."

Yes, there will be tailgating

Benefits for the entire U community

Bringing football back to campus will provide the University community with an iconic athletic experience that is a hallmark of a Big Ten school. But equally as important, this historic initiative will benefit the entire University. TCF Bank Stadium is generating awareness of, and support for, the U's academic mission. In fact, the fundraising for the stadium has already resulted in $45 million in companion gifts for academic purposes.

There is no other sport in which tailgating is more closely tied in with the game-day experience than football. And the University plans to make that pastime a viable and safe option before and after Gopher games.

Tailgating will be allowed in more than two dozen surface parking lots on the East Bank, West Bank, and in St. Paul (including at State Fair lots). Hours for tailgating have not yet been finalized, but will have parameters before and after games.

Gas grills, portable generators, tents and awnings, and portable outdoor furniture will be allowed in tailgating lots. Consumption of alcoholic beverages will also be allowed in accordance with all applicable ordinances and U policies. The University, through its tailgating rules and policies, is dedicated to enhancing the game-day experience while promoting a safe campus environment and preserving the beauty of campus. More information on tailgating, including hours and designated lots, will be made available on a new game-day Web site coming soon.

Game-day traditions, old and new

One of the most exciting aspects of bringing football back to campus is the opportunity to create new traditions--while retaining and resurrecting some from the past. Dozens of University staff, students, and community leaders have been brainstorming ideas for new traditions, ranging from chants and songs to décor around campus and uniquely Minnesotan food fare.

Colleges, alumni groups, students and others have plans under way to make the most of game day festivities through special events and gatherings. As September 12 approaches, more will be revealed, so stay tuned.

The establishment of new football traditions is just one more thing to look forward to on September 12. That date will certainly be one that lives long in Gopher football history. There will dedications, there will be fanfare, and of course, the actual game against Air Force, watched outdoors, in our new stadium, at long last back on campus. The dream of returning football to campus--after 27 seasons away--becomes reality in just over 27 weeks. Not that anyone is counting.

For more information about the new stadium, see TCF Bank Stadium or e-mail stadium.

For the 2009 football season schedule, see the

football calendar