Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to Be a Giant Fan In Minnesota -- 2016 Edition

In the 2016 NFL season, 2 teams have switched to new stadiums. The St. Louis Rams have moved back to Los Angeles, and reclaimed the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on a temporary basis, until their new stadium in Inglewood can open, presumably for the 2019 season.

The only team having moved into a brand-new stadium this season is the Minnesota Vikings, into U.S. Bank Stadium. On Sunday, October 3, the New York Giants will travel to Minneapolis to play them there for a Monday Night Football game.

Before You Go. The Vikings once again play indoors, but you will only be indoors for 4 hours at most. So you should consult the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press websites for their forecasts. They're predicting low 60s for Monday afternoon, and mid-50s for evening. So the legendary Minnesota cold won't be an issue. However, they're calling for a 60 percent chance of rain. Take that into consideration.

Minnesota is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. The Vikings averaged 52,430 fans per home game last season. That was next-to-last in the NFL, slightly ahead of the lame-duck Rams. But that stat is misleading, since having to groundshare with the University of Minnesota while their new stadium was built meant they have the smallest stadium in the NFL. That 52,430 was a sellout. Presumably, having a new, NFL-ready, state-of-the-art stadium will be a novelty, plus they seem to be an improved team. So getting tickets will be tough.

No longer having a college own their stadium and set prices, Vikings tickets have gone from among the least expensive in the NFL to among the most expensive. Every seat between the 30-yard lines is a club seat, even in the upper deck. Even with that, expect to pay at least $100 for any seat.

Getting There. It's 1,199 road miles from Times Square in New York to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis (the spot where Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air in the opening sequence of her 1970-77 CBS sitcom), and 1,191 miles from MetLife Stadium to U.S. Bank Stadium. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

If you order early, you could get a round-trip nonstop flight on United Airlines from Newark to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for under $500. When you get there, the Number 55 light rail takes you from the airport to downtown in under an hour, so at least that is convenient.

Bus? Not a good idea. Greyhound runs 3 buses a day between Port Authority and Minneapolis, all with at least one transfer, in Chicago and possibly elsewhere as well. The total time, depending on the number of stops, is between 26 and 31 hours, and costs $198 round-trip. The Greyhound terminal is at 950 Hawthorne Avenue, at 9th Street North, just 3 blocks from Nicollet Mall, 2 from the Target Center arena, and from there just across the 7th Street overpass over Interstate 394 from Target Field.

Train? An even worse idea. Amtrak will make you leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM Eastern Time, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time, and then the Empire Builder, their Chicago-to-Seattle run, will leave at 2:15 PM and arrive at Union Depot in St. Paul (not Minneapolis) at 10:03 PM -- after the game would end, unless there's a lot of overtime. From there, 214 4th Street E., you'd have to take the Light Rail Green Line to downtown Minneapolis. And it's $348 round-trip. And you'd probably have to spent not one but two nights in a hotel.

If you decide to drive, it's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana.

Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wisconsin, where you will once again merge with I-94. Now, I-94 is what you want, taking it into Minnesota and the Twin Cities, with Exit 235B being your exit for the University of Minnesota area, and Exit 233A for downtown Minneapolis.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 and a half hours in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, and half an hour in Minnesota. That’s 17 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, outside Chicago and halfway across Wisconsin, and accounting for traffic in New York, the Chicago suburbs and the Twin Cities, it should be no more than 23 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.

Once In the City. Like the baseball Twins, who arrived at the same time (1961), and the subsequent NBA Timberwolves (1989) and NHL Wild (2000), and the departed NHL North Stars (1967-1993), the Vikings are called "Minnesota," because they didn't want to slight either one of the "Twin Cities."

Well, these "twins" are not identical: They have different mindsets, and, manifesting in several ways that included both having Triple-A teams until the MLB team arrived, have been known to feud as much as San Francisco and Oakland, Dallas and Fort Worth, Baltimore and Washington, if not as much as Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Minneapolis has about 414,000 people, St. Paul 302,000, and the combined metropolitan area a little under 4.2 million, ranking 15th in the U.S. -- roughly the combined population of Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island -- or that of Manhattan and Queens. Denver is the only metropolitan area with teams in all 4 sports that's smaller. And, despite being the smaller city, St. Paul is the State capital.
The State House in St. Paul

"Minneapolis" is a combination of the Dakota tribal word for water, and the Greek word for city. It was founded in 1867 with the name St. Anthony Falls, and, of course, St. Paul, founded in 1854, is also named for an early Christian saint. In Minneapolis, Hennepin Avenue separates the numbered Streets from North and South, and the Mississippi River is the "zero point" for the Avenues, many (but not all) of which also have numbers.

Each city once had 2 daily papers, now each is down to 1: Minneapolis had the Star and the Tribune, merged in 1982; St. Paul the Pioneer and the Dispatch, merged into the Pioneer Press and Dispatch in 1985, with the Dispatch name dropped in 1990. Today, they are nicknamed the Strib and the Pi Press.

The sales tax in the State of Minnesota is 6.875 percent. It's 7.775 percent in Minneapolis' Hennepin County, and 7.625 percent in St. Paul's Ramsey County. Bus and Light Rail service is $2.25 per ride during rush hours, $1.75 otherwise.
ZIP Codes in Minnesota start with the digits 54 and 55; with Minneapolis having 553, 554 or 555; and St. Paul having 550 and 551. The Area Codes are 612 for Minneapolis, 507 for its suburbs, and 651 for St. Paul.

Going In. The official address of the brand-new, downtown U.S. Bank Stadium is 900 South 5th Street -- the Metrodome's having been 501 Chicago Avenue, before they changed it to 34 Kirby Puckett Place in honor of the Twins Hall-of-Famer. The light rail station formerly named Metrodome has been renamed U.S. Bank Stadium Station. If you drive in, parking can be had for as little as $5.00.
It looks not so much like a sports stadium
as it does like an inverted ship. And not a Viking ship,
as did the main arena for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway.

It was patterned after the largest glass building in the world, the Crystal Cathedral, the "megachurch" run by the late Dr. Robert H. Schuller in Garden Grove, Orange County, California. With 66,655 seats -- expandable to 73,000 for the Super Bowl, and it could also host a Final Four -- it is the largest stadium in Minnesota history.

As with so many 21st Century stadiums and arenas, entryways are named not by numbers or letters, but by corporations. As with the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils, Verizon is involved. The North entrance is the Ecolab Gate, the East entrance is the Verizon Gate, the South entrance is the Pentair Gate, and the West entrance is the Polaris Gate.

As with all fixed-roof stadiums, the field is artificial turf, specifically UBU Sports Speed Series S5-M. It is aligned east-to-west (well, northwest-to-southeast), but with the roof, the sun won't be an issue.

It opened on July 22 of this year. The 1st sporting event was a game between European soccer powers on August 3, with Chelsea of London beating AC Milan 3-1. The 1st concert was by Luke Bryan on August 19. The Vikings played their 1st preseason game on August 28, and their 1st regular-season game on September 18, beating their arch-rivals, the Green Bay Packers. (The Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry isn't just for college sports.) It will host Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018, and the NCAA Final Four on March 30 and April 1, 2019.
The regular-season opener against the Packers

Although designed to host both baseball and soccer, local team Minnesota United opted to build a soccer-specific stadium in St. Paul, rather than play at U.S. Bank Stadium upon their entry into Major League Soccer.

It also has a baseball-hosting capability, and the University of Minnesota will begin hosting the annual Dairy Queen Classic there next February. But with retractable seating allowing for a right field pole only 301 feet from home plate, and with the Twins having opened Target Field only in 2010, they're not moving in anytime soon. On the other hand, in the event that Target Field is unplayable for any reason (Minnesota isn't exactly hurricane country, but it is cold and snow country, and if they know a blizzard is coming sometime in April), it's nice to know that they can move games to U.S. Bank in an emergency.

UPDATE: On September 12, 2017, Thrillist had an article ranking all 31 NFL stadiums. U.S. Bank Stadium came in 6th, in the top quartile:

The new-ish home of the Minnesota Vikings is the sleekest, edgiest home stadium in America...

Inside, sunlight is captured in an atrium-like prism, with outstanding weather control and visibility. The concessions are world-class as well, with local destination restaurants Kramarczuk's and Revival represented. 

Food. Considering that Minnesota is Big Ten Country, you would expect their stadium to have lots of good food, in particular that Midwest staple, the sausage. They don't disappoint. What does is the stadium's website, which isn't much for navigation.

It does, however, list some interesting items, if not their locations within the stadium: 612 Burger Kitchen (named for Minneapolis' Area Code), Andrew Zimmern's Canteen Hoagies (the New York-born TV chef lives in the Twin Cities area), Andrew Zimmern's Canteen Rotisserie (sounds like a chicken stand), Bud's BBQ (named for legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant), Fire & Rice (sounds like a Chinese food stand), Mill City Classics (Minneapolis was long known as a flour-producing city), North Star Grill, Prairie Dogs (hopefully serving hot dogs, not actual prairie dog meat), R Taco, State Fair Favorites (a copy of the stand at Target Field that serves things like corn dogs and ice cream in waffle cones), Stone Arch Pizza Company and Twin City Foodies.

The food for which Minnesota is most famous for is the Jucy Lucy (not "Juicy"), a cheeseburger with the cheese melted and placed inside the core of the patty.

Team History Displays. There is no display at U.S. Stadium for the Vikings achievements. They do not display mentions of their 1969 NFL Championship (losing Super Bowl IV); their 1973, 1974 and 1976 NFC Championships (losing Super Bowls VIII, IX and XI); their 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2000 NFC Central Division Championships; and their 2008, 2009 and 2015 NFC North Division Championships.

Being the last Champions of the pre-merger NFL made the Vikings the last recipients of the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy, named for an early referee who died in 1934, and was given to the NFL Champions from then until 1969, when the Super Bowl trophy, which became the Vince Lombardi Trophy after Lombardi died in 1970, took its place. It was supposed to go to the winning team for a year, then handed to the next champions. While some teams had replicas made, the current Vikings organization has no idea where the original trophy is. Some people think that the team has been cursed because of this. This season that just got underway is the Vikings' 56th season, and they have never gone as far as the league structure of the time has allowed them to go.

Nor are their 6 retired numbers displayed. Of the 6, 4 are from their Super Bowl teams: 10, quarterback Fran Tarkenton; 53, center Mick Tinglehoff; 70, defensive end Jim Marshall; and 88, defensive tackle Alan Page. They also retired 80 for 1990s receiver Cris Carter, and 77 for 1990s offensive tackle Korey Stringer, who suffered heatstroke and during during training camp in 2001.

However, they have transplanted the Ring of Honor they had at the Metrodome to U.S. Bank Stadium. There are currently 21 individuals honored:

* From the 1960s, but not making it to the 1969 title: Tarkenton.

* From the 1969 NFL Championship: Tinglehoff, Marshall, Page, running back Bill Brown, offensive tackle Ron Yary, defensive end Carl Eller, safety Paul Krause, head coach Bud Grant, general manager Jim Finks, and medical adviser Fred Zamberletti. Interestingly, Joe Kapp, the starting quarterback on this team, has not been honored.

* From the 1973 and 1974 NFC Championships: Tarkenton (who was traded to the Giants and traded back to the Vikings), Tinglehoff, Marshall, Page, Brown, Yary, Eller, Krause, Grant, Finks, Zamberletti and running back Chuck Foreman.

* From the 1976 NFC Championship: Tarkenton, Foreman, Tinglehoff, Marshall, Page, Yary, Eller, Krause, Grant, Zamberletti and linebacker Matt Blair.

* From the 1980s: Grant, Zamberletti, Blair, defensive end Chris Doleman, linebacker Scott Studwell, safety Joey Browner and coach Jerry Burns.

* From the 1990s: Zamberletti, Carter, Stringer, guard Randall McDaniel and defensive tackle John Randle.

* Thus far, no one has been inducted from the 21st Century, although Zamberletti is still with the organization.
Tarkenton was named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. He, Page and Randy Moss were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010.

Stuff. The Vikings Locker Room Official Team Store is located on the Main Concourse, across from Section 101. Another Vikings Locker Room is located on the Upper Concourse,  between sections 302-304. They also have a Team Store on the site of their 1st stadium, at the Mall of America in Bloomington. Whether that store or any of the stands sells horned helmets, the team's symbol and long the symbol of the original Vikings, even though they never actually wore them, you'd have to go to find out.

With an uneven history that, as yet, doesn't include a World Championship, there aren't many books about the Vikings. But that history does include an NFL Championship. Pat Duncan wrote about it in Last Kings of the Old NFL: The 1969 Minnesota Vikings. Star-Tribune columnist and 1500 ESPN radio host Patrick Reusse and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar combined in 2010 to write a 50th Anniversary retrospective, Minnesota Vikings: The Complete Illustrated History.

As for DVDs, the NFL's official History of the Minnesota Vikings came out in 2001, so it only goes up to the team's 40th Anniversary. In 2009, the NFL released Minnesota Vikings: 5 Greatest Games. Except none of the 5 are from their 1970s glory days, which is inexcusable due to the vast library of NFL Films.Instead, they chose a Playoff win over the San Francisco 49ers from the 1987 season, a Playoff win over the Arizona Cardinals from the 1998 season, a Playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys from the 1999 season, Adrian Peterson's NFL record 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers in a 2007 regular season game, and the 2008 Division title clincher against the Giants.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "The Most Obnoxious Fans In the NFL" ranked Vikings fans 23rd out of 32, saying:

For a franchise that’s endured a stunning amount of heartbreak and futility on its journey to never winning a Super Bowl, you don’t get nearly the amount of misery hype as, say, a Cleveland or a Buffalo. But your overcompensation for that makes you slightly more obnoxious than those fans, playing the victim card extra hard and going WAY over the top with superfan bravado. 

Because of their Midwest/Heartland image, Vikings fans like a "family atmosphere." Therefore, while they don't especially like the Giants, they will not directly antagonize you. I would advise against saying anything complimentary about the Green Bay Packers, the University of Wisconsin, the Dallas Stars (the hockey team that used to be the Minnesota North Stars) or Norm Green (the owner who moved them).

UPDATE: From September 1 to 7, 2017, during the NFL National Anthem protest controversy, polled fans of the 32 NFL teams, to see where they leaned politically. Given Minnesota's natural liberalism, it won't surprise you to learn that they found that Viking fans tend to be 7.8 percent more liberal than conservative.

The Vikings hold auditions for the National Anthem, instead of having a regular singer. Before every game, a large Gjallarhorn -- Old Norse for "yelling horn" -- is blown as the team comes onto the field. This is usually done by a specially-selected person. For example, before the 1st regular season game at the new stadium, 89-year-old Hall of Fame coach Harry Peter Grant Jr., a.k.a. "Bud" Grant, still an official consultant for the team, blew the horn. A sound effect of the horn is played for every score, 1st down, or other big play.

For many years, a man in a traditional (if historically inaccurate) Viking costume showed up at games at Metropolitan Stadium. In 1994, Joseph Juranitch, born the same year as the team, 1961 -- ironically, in Milwaukee, territory of their arch-rivals, the Green Bay Packers, but grew up in Ely, Minnesota -- took up the mantle, calling himself Ragnar the Viking.
I'm not going to tell him that Vikings didn't wear horned helmets
-- or that Vikings didn't ride motorcycles.

His contract was not renewed for the 2015 season, but he still makes public appearances in costume. He is a security officer for a Twin Cities high school. He was replaced by the foam-costumed Viktor the Viking.
Seriously? Is this guy really an upgrade on Ragnar?

The team's purple helmets and jerseys got them nicknamed "The Purple People Eaters," although the outer-space creature in the original 1958 song only ate purple people -- making him an enemy to the as-yet-unfounded Minnesota football team!

Their fight song is "Skol, Vikings" -- "Skol" being a variation on "Skål," a Scandinavian word meaning "good health." In effect, this is a toast, equivalent to the Gaelic "Sláinte," the Spanish "Salud," the Italian "Salute," the German "Prost," the Hebrew "L'chaim" or the Slavic "Na zdrowie." "Skol, skol, skol" is also the main fans' chant.

And, in case you're wondering, Minnesota (and, to a lesser extent, the neighboring States of Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota) have a large concentration of people of Scandinavian descent (Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish and Icelandic), which is why the team was named the Vikings. Just as the Boston basketball team was named the Celtics in honor of Boston's Irish heritage. And teams in places with Native American influence have been named the Kansas City Chiefs and the Florida State Seminoles. But nobody's ever had the guts to name a team in a city with a large Italian population the Philadelphia Paisans or the Chicago Godfathers. There's no New York Jews, L.A. Chicanos or San Francisco Chinamen, either. Nor should there be. Although "New York Mensches" would be complimentary.

After the Game. Minneapolis is a relatively safe city. As long as you don't go out of your way to antagonize anybody, you should be all right.

The most famous Minnesota sports bar, Stub & Herb's, has been parked on the University of Minnesota campus at 227 SE Oak Street, on the corner of Washington, since 1939, when UM football was not only good, but great. Stadium Village on light rail.

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, '’m sorry to say that listings for where they tend to gather are slim. O'Donovan's Irish Pub, in Minneapolis at 700 1st Avenue North at 7th St., downtown, is said to cater to football Giants fans. Jet fans are said to go to the Lyndale Tap House, at 2937 Lyndale Avenue South, but that's 2 1/2 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis. Number 4 bus.

Another restaurant that may be of interest to New York baseball fans is Charley's Grill. It was popular among visiting players from other American Association cities when they came to play the Millers and the Saints. Legend has it that, when the Yankees gathered for spring training in 1961, they were trying to figure out which restaurants in the new American League cities were good, and someone who'd recently played for the Denver Bears mentioned Charley's. But Yogi Berra, who'd gone there when the Yanks' top farm team was the Kansas City Blues, said, "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

(That Yogi said the line is almost certainly true, but the restaurant in question was almost certainly Ruggiero's, a place in his native St. Louis at which he and his neighbor Joe Garagiola waited tables as teenagers.)

Well, someone must still be going there, because it's still open, described as a "warm dining room & patio with Midwestern cuisine at the Depot Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel." Downtown, at 225 3rd Avenue South at 2nd Street.

If you visit Minnesota during the European soccer season, as we are now in, Nomad World Pub has been voted the State's best "football pub." 501 Cedar Avenue, in West Bank, about a mile and a half east of downtown. Bus 22 from Nicollet Mall. Brit's Pub is at 1110 Nicollet Mall, and may also be to your liking.

Sidelights. Minnesota's sports history is long, but very uneven. Teams have been born, moved in, moved around, and even moved out. But there are some local sites worth checking out.

UPDATE: On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and Minneapolis came in 11th, in the top half. They said:

Any city simultaneously responsible for giving the world Prince and the Jucy Lucy is clearly doing some things right. If you've never experienced the perfection that is a summer in Minneapolis... well, you're basically out of time because autumn is coming and the Vikings are about to ruin everything. Damn you Teddy Bridgewater and your fragile knees! Where were we? Right, so anyway, soon enough Minneapolis inevitably finds itself plugging its cars in so their batteries don't freeze while exchanging terse pleasantries over rib-sticking servings of hot dish, but damn, when this city's good, it's really good. Hopefully one day that applies to the football team.

U.S. Bank Stadium was built on the site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Home of the Twins from 1982 to 2009, the University of Minnesota football team from 1982 to 2008, the NFL's Vikings from 1982 to 2013, and the NBA's Timberwolves in their inaugural season of 1989-90, that infamous blizzard and roof collapse in 2010 brought the desire to get out and build a new stadium for the Vikes to the front burner, and it finally led to action. Until then, there were threats that the Vikes would move, the most-mentioned possible destinations being Los Angeles and San Antonio.
The Twins won the 1987 and 1991 World Series at the Metrodome – going 8-0 in World Series games in the Dome, and 0-6 in Series games outside of it. The Vikings, on the other hand, were just 6-4 in home Playoff games there – including an overtime defeat in the 1998 NFC Championship Game after going 14-2 in the regular season.
From October 27, 1991 to April 6, 1992, the Metrodome hosted 3 major events in less than 6 months: The World Series (Twins over Atlanta Braves), Super Bowl XXVI (Washington Redskins over Buffalo Bills), and the NCAA Final Four (Duke beating Michigan in the Final). It also hosted the Final Four in 2001 (Duke won that one, too, over Arizona).

In May 2012, faced with the serious possibility of the Vikings moving without getting a suitable stadium, the Minnesota State legislature approved funding for a new stadium for the Vikings, to be built on the site of the Metrodome and on adjoining land.

In a piece of poetic justice, just as the damn thing was (with considerable ballyhoo) built and completed ahead of schedule and under budget, so did the demolition take place ahead of schedule and under budget. The people of Minnesota seemed to be proud of its having been built on the cheap and on time, but it served its purpose, to keep the Twins and Vikings from moving for a generation, and now replacement stadiums are achieving the same purpose.

Billy Martin, who hated the place, had the best word on it, though the awkward wording of it may have been inspired in part by his pal Yogi Berra: "It's a shame a great guy like HHH had to be named after it." (Billy's 1st managing job was with the Twins, at the Met in 1969.)

* Target Field. Home of the Twins since 2010, it gives Minnesota's baseball team its 1st true ballpark after a half-century of waiting, rather than the Bloomington ice tray and the Homerdome. The official address is 1 Twins Way, along 3rd Avenue N., between 5th and 7th Streets. It has its own stop on the light rail system.

* Mall of America and sites of Metropolitan Stadium and the Metropolitan Sports Center. In contrast to their performance at the Metrodome, the Vikings were far more successful at their first home, while the Twins were not (in each case, playing there from 1961 to 1981).
The Vikings reached 4 Super Bowls while playing at The Met, while the Twins won Games 1, 2 and 6 of the 1965 World Series there, but lost Game 7 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a shutout by Sandy Koufax. (So the Twins are 11-1 all-time in World Series home games, but 0-9 on the road.) The Vikings were far more formidable in their ice tray of a stadium, which had no protection from the sun and nothing to block an Arctic blast of wind.

In fact, the Met had one deck along the 3rd base stands and in the right field bleachers, two decks from 1st base to right field and in the left field bleachers, and three decks behind home plate. Somebody once said the stadium looked like an Erector set that a kid was putting together, before his mother called him away to dinner and he never finished it. At 45,919 seats, it had a capacity that was just fine for baseball; but at 48,446, it was too small for the NFL.

Prior to the 1961 arrivals of the Twins and Vikings, the Met hosted the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers from 1956 to 1960, and 5 NFL games over the same stretch, including 4 "home games" for the Packers. (Viking fans may be sickened over that, but at least University of Minnesota fans can take heart in the University of Wisconsin never having played there.)

The experiments worked: The Met, built equidistant from the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in the southern suburb of Bloomington, was awarded the MLB and NFL teams, and Midway Stadium, built in 1957 as the new home of the St. Paul Saints (at 1000 N. Snelling Avenue in the city of St. Paul, also roughly equidistant from the two downtowns), struck out, and was used as a practice field by the Vikings before being demolished in 1981.

The NHL's Minnesota North Stars played at the adjoining Metropolitan Sports Center (or Met Center) from 1967 to 1993, before they were moved to become the Dallas Stars by owner Norm Green, earning him the nickname Norm Greed. The Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1981 and 1991, but never won the Cup until 1999 when they were in Dallas.

The Beatles played at Metropolitan Stadium on August 21, 1965 -- making 1 of only 3 facilities to host an All-Star Game, a Finals and a Beatles concert in the same year. (The others were the Boston Garden and Maple Leaf Gardens in 1964.) Elvis Presley sang at the Met Center on November 5, 1971 and October 17, 1976.

8000 Cedar Avenue South, at 80th Street -- near the airport, although legends of planes being an issue, as with Shea Stadium and Citi Field, seem to be absent. A street named Killebrew Drive, and the original location of home plate, have been preserved. A 45-minute ride on the Number 55 light rail (MOA station).

* Site of Nicollet Park. Home of the Millers from 1912 to 1955, it was one of the most historic minor-league parks, home to Ted Williams and Willie Mays before they reached the majors. With the Met nearing completion, its last game was Game 7 of the 1955 Junior World Series, in which the Millers beat the International League Champion Rochester Red Wings. A few early NFL games were played there in the 1920s, including home games by a team a team known as the Minneapolis Marines and the Minneapolis Red Jackets. A bank is now on the site. Nicollet and Blaisdell Avenues, 30th and 31st Streets. Number 465 bus.

* TCF Bank Stadium. Designed to look like the old red-brick horseshoe college football stadiums of the 1920s, the Vikings' stopgap home of the 2014 and '15 seasons is on the campus of the University of Minnesota, across the Mississippi River from most of Minneapolis, 3 miles due east of Nicollet Mall and the homes of the Twins and T-Wolves.

The stadium opened in 2009, allowing the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers to play home games on campus as they did at Memorial Stadium from 1924 to 1981. Their alumni were sick of playing in the cold, so when the Metrodome opened for the Twins and Vikings in 1982, they wanted in (figuratively and literally). But, even during winning seasons (which have been few and far between since the 1960s), attendance was lousy. So an on-campus facility was built. Unlike most football stadiums, due to solar and wind patterns, the field is laid out east-to-west, and is made of FieldTurf.
The Vikings played a home game there in 2010, under emergency circumstances, following the snow-caused collapse of the Metrodome roof. The Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears, and it turned out to be Brett Favre's last NFL game. It's also hosted an outdoor game for UM hockey, and earlier this year, the Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks in an outdoor hockey game. It hosted a match between soccer teams Manchester City of England and Olympiacos of Athens, Greece.

The official address of TCF Bank Stadium is 420 SE 23rd Avenue. Coming from downtown, you would take the Green Line light rail to Stadium Village stop.

Memorial Stadium, a.k.a. "Old Memorial," seated 56,000 people, and was across University Avenue from where the new stadium now stands. The McNamara Alumni Center and the University Aquatic Center are on the site. The Vikings had played a home game at "Old Memorial" in 1969, due to a conflict with a Twins Playoff game at Metropolitan Stadium.
Memorial Stadium

Across Oak Street from the new stadium's west end, on opposite sides of 4th Street, are the University's basketball and hockey homes. The Gophers play their basketball games at Williams Arena, a classic old barn built in 1928. The 1951 NCAA Final Four was held there, with Kentucky beating Kansas State in the Final. The hockey equivalent, the Frozen Four, was held there in 1958 and 1966.

Across 4th Street from Williams is Mariucci Arena, home of the hockey team that has won National Championships in 1974, '76, '79, 2002 and '03. Named for John Mariucci, a member of the Chicago Blackhawks' 1938 Stanley Cup winners who coached the Gophers. The arena was built in 1993, after the team previously played hockey at Williams.

Legend has it that 4th Street is the "Positively 4th Street" used as the title of a song by former UM student Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan, although, as is often the case with Dylan songs, there is no mention of the title in the songs. Whether the "friend" who's "got a lot of nerve" was a fellow UM student, I don't know. It's also been suggested that the 4th Street in question is the one in New York's Greenwich Village.

* Site of Lexington Park. Home of the Saints from 1897 to 1956, it wasn't nearly as well regarded, although it did close with a Saints win over the arch-rival Millers. The site is now occupied by retail outlets. Lexington Parkway, University Avenue, Fuller & Dunlap Streets.

* Xcel Energy Center and site of the St. Paul Civic Center. Home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild since their debut in 2000, and site of the 2008 Republican Convention that nominated John McCain for President and Sarah Palin for Vice President. (The GOP met in Minneapolis in 1892, renominating President Benjamin Harrison at the Industrial Exposition Building at 101 Central Avenue SE. It was torn down in 1940, and condos are on the site now.)

The place is a veritable home and hall of fame for hockey in Minnesota, the most hockey-mad State in the Union, including the State high school championships that were previously held at the Civic Center.

That building was the home of the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association from 1973 to 1977. The Fighting Saints had played their first few home games, in late 1972, at the St. Paul Auditorium.

Elvis sang at the Civic Center on October 2 and 3, 1974, and April 30, 1977. The Civic Center is also where Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox filmed the video for Bruce's song "Dancing In the Dark."

The Frozen Four was held at the Civic Center in 1989, 1991 and 1994; and has been held at the Xcel in 2002 and 2011, and will be held there again in 2018.

199 W. Kellogg Blvd., at W. 7th Street, in downtown St. Paul, about 9 miles from downtown Minneapolis. The Number 94 bus goes straight there from downtown Minneapolis, in about 25 minutes. The Green Line light rail goes from Nicollet Mall to St. Paul Central Station. From there, it's a 15-minute walk to the arena. Total travel time: About 40 minutes.

The arena is the westernmost part of the RiverCentre complex, which includes the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, the Saint Paul RiverCentre and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. The Wilkins, formerly the St. Paul Auditorium, was built in 1932. On May 13, 1956, early in his career, Elvis Presley sang there in the afternoon, and at the Minneapolis Auditorium in the evening.

* Target Center. Separated from Target Field by I-394 and 2nd Avenue, this arena has been home to the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves since the team debuted shortly after its 1989 opening. The T-Wolves have only made the Western Conference Finals once, and are probably best known as the team Kevin Garnett and GM (and Minnesota native) Kevin McHale couldn't get over the hump, before Garnett went to McHale’s former team, the Boston Celtics.

The Minnesota Lynx also play here, and have become the WNBA's answer to the San Antonio Spurs, winning league titles in odd-numbered years: 2011, 2013 and 2015. 600 N. 1st Avenue at 6th Street.

* Site of Minneapolis Auditorium. Built in 1927, from 1947 to 1960 this was the home of the Minneapolis Lakers – and, as Minnesota is “the Land of 10,000 Lakes” (11,842, to be exact), now you know why a team in Los Angeles is named the Lakers. (The old Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden said his team and the Lakers should switch names, due to L.A.'s "West Coast jazz" scene and the Great Salt Lake: "Los Angeles Jazz" and "Utah Lakers" would both make more sense than their current names.)
The Lakers won the National Basketball League Championship in 1948, then moved into the NBA and won the Championship in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954. In fact, until the Celtics overtook them in 1963, the Minneapolis Lakers were the most successful team in NBA history, and have still won more World Championships than all the other Minnesota major league teams combined: Lakers 5, Twins 2, the rest a total of 0. (Unless you count the Lynx, who make it Lakers 5, everybody else 5.)

They were led by their enormous (for the time, 6-foot-10, 270-pound) center, the bespectacled (that’s right, he wore glasses, not goggles, on the court) Number 99, George Mikan. The arrival of the 24-second shot clock for the 1954-55 season pretty much ended their run, although rookie Elgin Baylor did help them reach the Finals again in 1959.

Elvis sang there early in his career, on May 13, 1956. The Auditorium was demolished in 1989, and the Minneapolis Convention Center was built on the site. 1301 2nd Ave. South, at 12th Street. Within walking distance of Target Field, Target Center and the Metrodome.

* Minneapolis Armory. Built in 1936 for the Minnesota National Guard, the Lakers used it as their home court part-time throughout their Minneapolis tenure, and full-time in their final season in Minneapolis, 1959-60. Ironically, the owner of the Lakers who moved them to Los Angeles was Bob Short – who later moved the "new" Washington Senators, the team established to replace the team that moved to become the Twins.

It was later the video-filming site for Minneapolis native Prince's "1999" and Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." It's been kept standing as a parking lot. 500 6th Street, downtown.

* Minnesota United. Originally NSC Minnesota and then the Minnesota Stars, this team began play in 2010, and, except for the occasional game moved to the Metrodome for more seats, has played its home games at a 10,000-seat stadium at the National Sports Center in Blaine, about 15 miles north of downtown Minneapolis. 1700 105th Avenue NE at Davenport Street NE. Hard to reach by public transportation: You'll need at least 2 buses, and to then walk a mile and a half.

The team has been promoted from the new North American Soccer League to Major League Soccer, and will begin play in the 2017 season, at U.S. Bank Stadium. Opening in time for the 2018 season (they hope) will be a new 20,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium, in St. Paul, at 400 N. Snelling Avenue, at the intersection of St. Anthony Avenue, just off I-94/U.S. 12/U.S. 52, about a mile and a half south of the site of old Midway Stadium. Green Line light rail to Snelling Avenue.

Until the MLS edition of MUFC (same initials as Manchester United Football Club, hopefully with less cheating) get underway, the closest MLS franchise to the Twin Cities will be the Chicago Fire, 416 miles away.

* Duluth. Minnesota's largest city outside the Twin Cities region is 155 miles to the northeast, at the western edge of Lake Superior. It was home to the State's 1st NFL team. They played the 1923, '24 and '25 team as the Duluth Kelleys, because they were sponsored by the Kelley-Duluth Hardware Store. They played the 1926 and '27 season as the Duluth Eskimos, and featured Hall-of-Famers Ernie Nevers and John "Johnny Blood" McNally.

They played at Athletic Park, which opened in 1903 and served as home of the minor-league Duluth White Sox from 1903 to 1916, and the Duluth Dukes from 1934 to 1940. It seated 6,000, and was replaced by the 4,2000-seat Wade Stadium on the same site in 1941. That was home to the Dukes until 1970, to a new Duluth-Superior Dukes from 1993 to 2002, and to the Duluth Huskies since 2003. In their various leagues, the Dukes/Huskies won Pennants in 1937, 1956, 1961, 1963, 1969, 1970 and 1997. 101 N. 35th Avenue West, about 3 miles southwest of downtown.

The 6,764-seat Duluth Entertainment Center hosted the hockey team at the University of Minnesota at Duluth from 1966 to 2010, one of the better hockey programs (if not as accomplished as their cousins down in Minneapolis). It also hosted the Frozen Four in 1968 and 1981, and Elvis on October 16, 1976 and April 29, 1977. The 6,726-seat Amsoil Arena -- smaller, but much more convenient -- was built next-door in 2010, and UMD moved in. Both are downtown and have an address of 350 Harbor Drive.

* Museums. The Twin Cities are very artsy, and have their share of museums, including one of the five most-visited modern art museums in the country, the Walker Art Center, at 1750 Hennepin Avenue. Number 4, 6, 12 or 25 bus. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is at 2400 3rd Avenue South. Number 17 bus, then walk 2 blocks east on 24th Street. The Science Museum of Minnesota is at 120 W. Kellogg Blvd. in St. Paul, across from the Xcel Center.

Fort Snelling, originally Fort Saint Anthony, was established by the U.S. Army in 1819, where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet, to guard the Upper Midwest. It served as an Army post until World War II. It is now a museum, with historical demonstrations based on its entire history, from the post-War of 1812 period to the Civil War, from the Indian Wars to the World Wars. 101 Lakeview Avenue in St. Paul, across from the airport. An hour’s ride on the Blue light rail.

Minnesota is famous for Presidential candidates that don't win. Governor Harold Stassen failed to get the Republican nomination in 1948, and then ran several more times, becoming, pardon the choice of words, a running joke. Senator Eugene McCarthy opposed Lyndon Johnson in the Democratic Primaries in 1968, but lost his momentum when Robert Kennedy got into the race and LBJ got out, then ran in 1976 as a 3rd-party candidate and got 1 percent of the popular vote.

Vice President Walter Mondale was the Democratic nominee in 1984, losing every State but
Minnesota in his loss to Ronald Reagan. In the 2012 election cycle, the moderate former Governor Tim Pawlenty and the completely batty Congresswoman Michele Bachmann ran, and neither got anywhere.

Most notable is Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Elected Mayor of Minneapolis in 1945 and 1947, he became known for fighting organized crime, which put a price on his head, a price it was unable to pay off.  In 1948, while running for the U.S. Senate, he gave a speech at the Democratic Convention, supporting a civil rights plank in the party platform, a movement which culminated in his guiding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the Senate as Majority Whip. He ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1960, but lost to John F. Kennedy, then was elected LBJ's Vice President in 1964.

He won the nomination in 1968, but lost to Richard Nixon by a hair. He returned to the Senate in 1970, and ran for President again in 1972, but lost the nomination to George McGovern. He might have run again in 1976 had his health not failed, as cancer killed him in 1978 at age 66. His wife Muriel briefly held his Senate seat.

Not having been President (he's come closer than any other Minnesotan ever has), he has no Presidential Library, but there is the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, 301 19th Avenue South, only a short walk from the Dome that would be named for him. Hubert and Muriel are laid to rest in Lakewood Cemetery, 3600 Hennepin Avenue. Number 6 bus. Minneapolis Lakers great George Mikan is also buried there. (Minnesota's greatest native football player, Bronko Nagurski, is buried in his hometown of International Falls, almost 300 miles north, on the Rainy River that forms part of the U.S.-Canadian border.)

The tallest building in Minnesota is the IDS Center, at 80 South 8th Street at Marquette Avenue, rising 792 feet high. The tallest in the State outside Minneapolis is Wells Fargo Place, at 30 East 7th Street at Cedar Street in St. Paul, 472 feet.

Nicollet Mall is a pedestrians-only shopping center that stretches from 2nd to 13th Streets downtown. At 7th Street, in front of Macy's, in roughly the same location that Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards threw her hat in the air in the opening to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, is a statue of "Mare" doing that. It was the first in a series of statues commissioned by TV Land that now includes Jackie Gleason outside Port Authority, Henry Winkler in Milwaukee, Bob Newhart in Chicago, Andy Griffith and Ron Howard in Raleigh, Elizabeth Montgomery in Salem, Massachusetts and Elvis in Honolulu. However, the show had no location shots in Minneapolis.

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Little House On the Prairie, and now Orphan Black were set in Minnesota, although not shot there. The sitcom Coach, which aired on ABC from 1989 to 1996, was set at Minnesota State University. At the time, there was not a real college with that name. But in 1999, Mankato State University was renamed Minnesota State University, Mankato; and in 2000, Moorhead State University became Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

The University of Minnesota was originally a model for the school on the show, but withdrew its support: Although some game action clearly shows the maroon and gold of the Golden Gophers, the uniforms shown in most scenes were light purple and gold. In one Season 1 episode, the Gophers are specifically mentioned as one of the Screaming Eagles' opponents, suggesting that Minnesota State might have been in the Big Ten. Show creator Barry Kemp is a graduate of the University of Iowa -- like Wisconsin, a major rival of the Gophers -- and most of the exterior shots you see of the campus were filmed there. In addition, the main character, Hayden Fox, was named after then-Iowa coach Hayden Fry. No scenes were actually shot in Minnesota, not even Hayden's oft-snowy lake house.

Movies filmed in Minnesota include the baseball films Little Big League and Major League: Back to the Minors, the George Clooney 1920s football film LeatherheadsThe Bishop's Wife (1947, later remade as The Preacher's Wife), Airport (the 1970 film that helped inspire the decade's disaster film craze), the Western The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid, the Grumpy Old Men movies, Kevin Smith's MallratsJuno, and, most memorably due to its use of the Minnesota accent, the Coen Brothers' Fargo (which now has a TV version shot there).

St. Paul is the capital of the State of Minnesota. The Capitol Building is at University Avenue and Capital Blvd. It's a half-hour ride from downtown on the Number 94 bus (named because most of its route is on I-94).


Bob Wood, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a graduate of Michigan State University, wrote a pair of sports travel guides: Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks, about his 1985 trip to all 26 stadiums then in MLB; and Big Ten Country, about his 1988 trip to all the Big Ten campuses and stadiums. (Penn State, Nebraska, and soon-to-be members Rutgers and Maryland were not yet in the league).

The Metrodome was the only stadium that featured in both books, although if either were updated to reflect current reality, it would feature in neither. In Big Ten Country, Wood said, "Now, don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't like Minneapolis. How can you not like Minneapolis?... No, Minneapolis is lovely. It's the Metrodome that sucks!"

Thankfully, the Metrodome is gone, the Vikings now play in a new stadium on the site, the Twins also play in a new stadium that actually feels like a ballpark, and, from what I understand, Minneapolis and St. Paul are still terrific cities, including for sports. A Giants or Jets fan should definitely take in a game against the Vikings there.

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