Supplement Feature - July 2009
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Stadium Solutions

An Inside Look at Outdoor Sports

By Richard Zowie

A desire to expand is something Marty Miller, a project architect with RDG Planning and Design, has noticed among the different clients he's worked with. Some clients want as many seats at the 50-yard-line as possible while some like expansion since it gives them future options.

"In the last couple of projects they've been especially interested in the ability to expand," Miller explained. "They didn't think they had all the money they wanted for seating but wanted to expand. It's about making sure there's a certain amount of space available in case the need comes out."

Esten added that a smaller stadium also fits the university's needs and is designed to generate more excitement over Golden Gopher games.

"We thought [more seats] drove demand for season tickets down and that a smaller stadium would increase demand," he said.

While there are fewer seats, that doesn't necessarily mean fewer seating options. Each seat faces toward the 40-yard line while the corner seats face the middle of the field. In other words, there's not a bad seat in the stadium.

But even Minnesota fans who head to the concourse to buy something to eat and drink will be pleasantly surprised to see it's still open to the field of play, allowing them to still see the game while getting refreshments.

TCF Bank Stadium also features a new scoreboard that's a significant improvement over what they've had before. The system features one main board, an auxiliary and two ribbon boards. The main board, 110 feet wide by 48 feet tall, is the second-largest in college football, Esten said. It's all digital with a new HD 16 technology that's one of the highest resolutions on the market.

The main board is about seven times larger than the one in the Metrodome, while the auxiliary board is about three times larger. Even those who are nearly at 180-degree angles can still see the picture on the board.

"It's very clear, and you won't believe until you see it," Esten said, adding that they visited a South Dakota company to view the scoreboard before buying it. "It's very important for the fan experience and for student athletes."

Moving into an outdoor stadium, consideration of neighbors is, no doubt, a big factor when it comes to stadium lights. TCF Bank Stadium will feature low-spill lights designed to minimize leakage and be sensitive to the residential neighborhood near the stadium.

Another interesting feature in the new stadium is the goalposts, which will be collapsible and have a hinge on the base to minimize problems and potential injuries for overzealous fans—such as when Minnesota won a game to earn a Rose Bowl berth or when it defeats noteworthy Big Ten opponents like Michigan.

"Now, we can collapse the goalposts and not worry about people climbing them," Esten said.

Unfortunately, Golden Gopher fans eager to tear down the goal posts to celebrate winning back the Brown Jug from Michigan will have to wait: Minnesota's not scheduled to play the Wolverines in the 2009 NCAA season. Instead, they'll open TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 12 against the Air Force Academy. Their first Big Ten opponent in the new stadium will be Wisconsin on Oct. 3.