A week before the big day, Patrick Talty considered the hours that had gone into planning and preparation at U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the Vikings and myriad other events.
"I don't even want to count because I think I would be sad," he said with a chuckle.
For the last couple of months, Talty — the general manager at SMG, the company that operates the stadium — has worked from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., leading a crew that works within the building around the clock. He leaves before his kids get up, he comes home after they've gone to bed and he's managed dinner with his wife just once this month.
The fruits of his effort, amid more than 4 million hours of labor since the December 2013 groundbreaking, will start to flourish Wednesday, when the 1,750,000-square-foot venue hosts its first major event: an International Champions Cup matchup between elite European soccer clubs Chelsea and AC Milan.
"The energy this event will produce will be an excellent kickoff to U.S. Bank Stadium," said Lester Bagley, Vikings executive vice president of public affairs and stadium development.
More than 55,000 tickets have been sold, a contingent Talty expects will include both stadium tourists and soccer nuts who would make up the largest attendance for a soccer match in the state. Two years ago a Champions Cup match between Greek club Olympiakos and English Premier League champion Manchester City at TCF Bank Stadium drew an announced crowd of 34,047. Further back, and not so international, the Minnesota Kicks drew 46,370 to a game in 1998. Each roll of sod brought in for Wednesday’s soccer game weighs a ton, and 590 rolls were delivered. The project is being led by Bosh Turf, which has done other stadium turf installations.
When the day arrives, the meticulously planned fan experience will begin before the stadium's giant glass doors open for the 8 p.m. show. Pedestrians can gather on the expansive plaza, which serves as a porch for the massive steel-framed house, beginning at 5 p.m. to watch the U.S. women's Olympic team face off with New Zealand on big screens, listen to music, participate in soccer drills and shop at the clubs' merchandise trailers.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Once inside the zinc-paneled stadium, fans can walk a loop around the new digs — about eight rows of seats will be rolled back in the 66,200-seat multipurpose venue to make room for the regulation-sized pitch — and gaze up through the transparent roof as dusk settles. Throughout the state-of-the-art concourse, they can sip on local brews and munch on fried chicken sandwiches and chicharrones.
Two thousand high-definition TVs in the concourse and in suites will offer up views from the field.
Everything that will be available during the Vikings regular season, from the ticket taking to the vendors, will be unveiled Wednesday.
"We'll have our full operation in place," Talty said. "There's nothing really that we're holding back."
The wailing voice of Kat Perkins, a Minneapolis-based singer who appeared on "The Voice," will signal the start when she sings the national anthem.
Players will follow by taking the pitch, each with a player from local youth teams.
ESPN will broadcast the game, featuring teams that have met just twice this century, and give worldwide exposure to an idyllic structure that will host a Super Bowl (2018) and an NCAA men's basketball Final Four (2019).
At least, that's how the picture-perfect evening has been laid out on paper.
Being the stadium's first event, this headliner is also functioning as an all-systems test of sorts, with the biggest trial coming in the form of the field itself.
Two years ago, when Minnesota first hosted an International Champions Cup match at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank, the surface was less than ideal.
"We had hired a group that had never put in grass before," said Charlie Stillitano, the co-founder and chairman of Relevent Sports, the event's promoter. "Suffice to say, they didn't have the right equipment. The grass pieces they cut were too small. … In the end, it was playable but we did have complaints."
This year Relevant hired Bush Turf, which did installations at Michigan Stadium and Busch Stadium. Stillitano said he feels confident the three-day process of cutting, rolling, weaving and misting will yield "an excellent playing surface."
But beyond the very elemental features, there are other things to worry about.
How will the magnetometers function as the patrons arrive? Where will traffic build up inside the gates? How well will the Wi-Fi work? How smooth will the broadcast system be?
"We definitely are nervous," Talty said. It will take three days to put down the sod, then cut, roll, weave and mist it. All that is expected to lead to a playing field that won’t be criticized as happened at TCF Bank Stadium two years ago.
"But we're nervous in a good way. If you're not nervous about the first event, there is something wrong. … I'm sure some things will come up that we'll learn from. I'm sure some things will come up that we'll need to adjust, but if we don't do that constantly on every event, we're not doing our jobs."
Amid the chaos, Talty said he plans to take at least one moment to step back and enjoy the finished product, 2½ years in the making.
"I'm most looking forward to just seeing people come in the building" he said, "and making this place come alive."
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