Vikings find way to seat all season-ticket holders in Gophers stadium

Playing at TCF Bank Stadium in 2010 helped the Vikings in preparing for the seating challenges.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport/USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Fourteen months of logistical maneuvering have the Minnesota Vikings set for seating while playing two seasons in TCF Bank Stadium.

Minnesota will play in the 52,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus for two seasons while the team’s new $975 million stadium is built on the current footprint of the Metrodome, the team’s home for the past 32 seasons. In the process, the Vikings will drop from 64,000 seats at the Metrodome with 11,000 season-ticket holders accounting for more than 53,000 seats, to the smaller, more intimate setting at TCF Bank Stadium.

"It’s been an interesting challenge," Vikings vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer Steve LaCroix said Friday. "It’s something that we’ve tried to create a fair and straightforward and transparent process in this transition. When you go from 64,000 seats to 52,000, obviously it’s a challenge on basic math."

Renewals for the 2014 season were sent to season ticket owners after the team finished an exhaustive process in determining seating and pricing for the stay at TCF Bank Stadium. The team was forced to assign seating for its current season ticket holders, but said all season ticket holders have been accounted for and accommodated in the plan.

Among the challenges were seating at the 50-yard line — the 50-yard line at TCF Bank Stadium is along an aisle, while it splits a section at the Metrodome —€“ a loss of 7,000 lower-level seats and loss of 12,000 total seats in part because of TCF Bank Stadium’s horseshoe-like design.

"It was a challenge," Vikings director of ticketing and hospitality Phil Huebner said. "We did seat everybody. The invoices are out and the phones are ringing at this point, which is good because we want to talk to people. We’ve got roughly 11,000 accounts in that. Again, we’ve seated everybody. I didn’t know if that was going to be possible initially, but we did. We’re rolling at this point in time."

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The team used its experience from the Dec. 20, 2010 game at TCF Bank Stadium, when the Vikings were forced to play on campus after the Metrodome roof collapsed, as reference in negotiations with the university and in preparing for seating and stadium improvements, which will be announced later.

The Vikings will add 2,000 bleacher seats to the stadium’s open west end to help account for a drop from 29,000 lower-level seats in the Metrodome to 22,000 in TCF Bank Stadium. The team also has to deal with a drop in suites from 60 paid suites at the Metrodome to a possible 38 at TCF Bank Stadium. 

The team might not even have 38 suites for its stay at TCF Bank Stadium. Current suite owners in TCF Bank Stadium have the right of first refusal for Vikings’ games, even if they’re not Vikings’ season ticket holders, because of the stadium suite lease agreement. Current suite owners have until Feb. 1 to declare their intentions.

Depending on season ticket renewals, limited single-game tickets will be available. The Vikings said current renewals for the first few days have been similar to past years and around a 90 percent renewal rate is common.

"Right now it’s full," LaCroix said of the seating. "So as far as everyone renews, then we’ll have very few to minimal seats available on a game-by-game basis. But every sports team has some turnover, so we’ll kind of manage that with new season ticket sales. There are other fans that want to come on board and be part of an outdoor experience in an improved stadium. So it’s going to be a balance, but this is really Step 1 of a multi-step process."

Having to assign seating for season ticket owners was one of the toughest transitions, and trying to accommodate with similar seating. The team ran computer simulations and used three factors in determining seating: Metrodome seat location, number of current seats and the years purchased and season ticket owner tenure.

"What we like to tell season ticket owners is we chose your seat here," Huebner said. "You’ll get the chance to choose it in the new stadium."

With the decrease in seat numbers — and the move outside — the team didn’t want to affect priority seating for the new stadium, set to open in 2016. All season ticket holders will hold priority seating for the new stadium, based on 2013 season ticket sales, whether they purchase season tickets in TCF Bank Stadium or not.

However, those season ticket owners that buy into TCF Bank Stadium will still be given a priority.

Ticket prices will range from $35 to $139 at TCF Bank Stadium. Last season at the Metrodome, ticket prices ranged from $31 to $133.

"We fully understand there’s going to be an element of people that don’t want to sit outside, and we’re not going to punish season ticket owners for not staying with us at TCF," Vikings executive director of communications Jeff Anderson said. "But there’s a balance of you do want to reward those that do come along with you. You’re not dropping to the end of a line or onto a waiting list. It’s going to be a very small impact on your priority at the new stadium."

The Vikings are touting the enhanced amenities at TFC Bank Stadium, which opened in 2009, over the Metrodome, which opened in 1982.

"Overall we think it’s going to be a better fan experience," LaCroix said. "There’s more restrooms. There’s more diverse concessions and obviously we’re back to the elements, which we’re going to embrace organizational-wide just with our fan base, as a football organization, we’re going to embrace for two years we’re back outside."

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