Boese column: Gophers gain impressive digsThe third-largest scoreboard in the nation flashed on and off throughout an informal media day recently at TCF Bank Stadium, the new home of the University of Minnesota's football team.
By: Brett Boese, The Republican Eagle
The third-largest scoreboard in the nation flashed on and off throughout an informal media day recently at TCF Bank Stadium, the new home of the University of Minnesota's football team.
The new leather furniture was still wrapped in plastic. The high-definition televisions have yet to be installed, and the bathrooms had no toilet paper. The door to the president's suite had a sign that read "coat closet" hanging on it.
In short, the nearly $300 million project isn't quite ready for prime time.
But, man, I'm not sure even Tim Brewster knows enough superlatives to describe what the facility will mean to the program.
"We wanted to make the stadium more than just a stadium," said Gary Bowman, head of athletic communications for the Gophers.
Walking out of the tunnel and onto the newest edition of artificial turf, people easily can imagine what the atmosphere will be like on the Sept. 12 home opener against Air Force. It will be a little harder to experience it.
Very few tickets remain in the 50,300 stadium, though many opposing fans aren't expected to use the full allotment of 3,000 tickets.
Season ticket packages start at $275 and range up to $3,000 to watch the seven-game home schedule in the luxury indoor club.
Roughly 20,000 maroon-and-gold chairs sit between the end zones. The remaining seats are of the bench variety, similar to many big-time football facilities — The Horseshoe at Ohio State and Lambeau Field, to name a few. Should demand require, there's room to add an upper deck across from the press box.
"Really, there's not a bad seat in the house," Bowman said.
Will it provide a similar environment to, say, The Big House at Michigan? It's unlikely, at least initially, but the "oohs" and "ahhs" by the press corps suggest the Metrodome will be quickly forgotten.
One suspects the recruits also will appreciate the upgrades.
Rather than the old recruiting tent used at the Dome, a large room outfitted with leather recliners, a non-alcoholic refreshments bar and numerous flat-screen TVs will greet prospective Gophers at TCF Stadium. They'll tour a 60-yard-long, football-shaped locker room, which Bowman says is the largest in the nation at any level.
Once the game starts, they'll be able to watch replays on a high-definition scoreboard that's nine times larger than the one found in the Metrodome.
The opener against Air Force is highly anticipated, but it's been a long process. The stadium's ceremonial groundbreaking took place way back Sept. 30, 2006. The Gophers are, understandably, itching to get settled.
The University of Minnesota marching band will move in July 4, while the football operations will complete its transition July 22.
Can Brewster, who is 8-17 in his first two years at the helm, take advantage of the new facility and turn the Gophers into a Big Ten power? That won't be an issue initially, as the fans focus on the fancy new facility. Soon, however, the fans will demand more.