NFL is 'on board' with playing at TCF Bank Stadium, 'U' official says
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Two NFL officials toured TCF Bank Stadium on Wednesday morning and sat in on an afternoon meeting that left University of Minnesota officials confident the league will sign off on playing Monday's game between the Vikings and Chicago Bears on campus.
"The NFL is on board," said Scott Ellison, the university's associate athletic director for facilities and event management.
"They have a couple gentlemen here (Wednesday) meeting with us and making sure we're making good progress, which we are, and they haven't expressed any concerns about what we're doing."
League officials are expected to remain in the Twin Cities for the rest of the week to monitor progress. As of late Wednesday afternoon, neither the Vikings nor the league had made a definitive statement about the venue for the game, although Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a media conference he's "confident" the game will be played in Minnesota.
Roughly 150 workers were clearing snow from the stands as Ellison addressed reporters a little after 3 p.m. Wednesday. Twenty-six truckloads of snow were removed on Tuesday and seventeen sections had been cleared by Wednesday afternoon, Ellison said, although the field itself remained covered in more than a foot of snow from last weekend's storm.
The Vikings are footing the bill for the entire process of getting the stadium operational, though the team and university is "still working on" the final price tag, Ellison said.
The plan is to clear the field on Friday, treat it with a chemical to break up ice on the surface and tarp the field with heat underneath. One of the primary preoccupations with the playing surface is that unlike other NFL stadiums with artificial turf, there are no heating coils underneath the field.
"The NFL has a very good game plan on that," Ellison said. "They've talked to FieldTurf, who is our provider of our surface here, and they're worked hand in hand with FieldTurf and with our grounds guy."
Conversations are ongoing about ticketing, adding temporary seating in the stadium's west end and alcohol sales, Ellison said. University officials also have been in contact with ESPN, which will broadcast Monday's game.
"Honestly, the snow is still our biggest obstacle," Ellison said. "You look around, you see some pretty sizeable drifts up in the seating section. You see a lot of snow on the field, and the snow we're getting (Thursday) is not going to help."
The goal is to have all snow removal done by Sunday night.
Asked whether the NFL has declared the field playable, Ellison said, "They have not, but they haven't said this isn't playable. They're very pleased with what they see. They're very, very pleased with the stadium itself. When they walk into the locker rooms, the press box, the media rooms, the interview rooms -- everything. They're very impressed with the stadium, and they have not said to me we're not going to host the game, we don't support the stadium. So, to me, that means they support what we're doing and they support the stadium."
On several other issues, according to Ellison:
• The university will staff the game and take all proceeds from concessions. "Our contract with our concessionaires is our contract."
• The people and companies who own 38 suites for Gophers games have right of first refusal to use them on Monday, too.
• The university does not need to obtain a special permit to hold the game on a Monday night.
• The Vikings have not yet broached the possibility of holding a walkthrough practice on the field sometime before Monday's game.
• Paid shovelers, not volunteers, are being sought for the coming days. The pay is $10 an hour, with shifts listed at gophersports.com.