NFL finally confirms venue; Frazier says fears about field 'negated'
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The NFL finally has made official what's been relatively certain for days: the Minnesota Vikings will play the Chicago Bears on Monday at TCF Bank Stadium.
The league waited until Friday afternoon to make a formal announcement as officials monitored the progress of the field, which hasn't been used in several weeks. By 11 a.m. on Friday, an estimated 90% of the playing surface was clear of snow, according to the University of Minnesota, which said in a media release the field is in "great shape."
Players from both teams have expressed concern in recent days over whether the field -- unused and frozen since the Gophers' season ended on Nov. 27 -- would present unsafe playing conditions for Monday night's relocated game. But officials from the university, the Vikings and the NFL increasingly have thrown their support behind the Bank as crews have worked to make the stadium operational again.
Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier said after Friday's practice that "it sounds like some of the fears and concerns about the field that has been negated. The league has really assured us that the field is going to be fine. So it seems like that's been dissipated and everyone is moving on past it and just concentrating on the game."
A short time earlier, Scott Ellison, the university's associate athletic director in charge of facilities, said in a statement that the field is in better shape than it was for the Gophers' finale because it "has been under a blanket of snow and at a constant temperature since last week's storm."
Once the snow was completely cleared, plans called for a tarp to be placed over the field with heaters underneath. In a media conference on Wednesday, Ellison told reporters the NFL had recommended treating the artificial turf with a chemical to break up ice, too.
League officials arrived on Wednesday morning to inspect the field and suggest a course of action. The Bears also sent their head groundskeeper to monitor the progress of the field, and Vikings officials have come and gone from the stadium all week.
"We appreciate the cooperation we have received from the University of Minnesota, the Vikings and the Bears in preparing the field for Monday night," Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement. "We are looking forward to an outstanding game on a quality field."