Many of us got to see the new stadium in in action for the first time over the weekend during with the Luke Bryan concert on Friday, or the Metallica concert last night (or the Soccer Game few weeks ago, if you're into long naps and vuvuzelas). I attended the latter last night (amazing show BTW, all the bands rocked it, but this isn't a review of the concert, but rather the venue) and I have some thoughts.
The Venue outside
I really was impressed approaching it. It's a very striking building, and very angular. It's clear to see that the Vikings put outdoor aesthetics as a high priority after having the dome, which looked like an uncomfortable pillow. The way it was set up however, getting to and from the light rail, could use a little work. You get off below the stadium at street level, then go out and around, up stairs, over a bridge, then it's a several minute walk to the main entrance (the big doors, there are other closer entrances, that were only open to those who got GA tickets). It was a bit of a hike just to get in the door. It was raining so they had the large main doors closed for this one.
The Venue Inside
I can't say that I was thoroughly impressed overall. It had sort of an industrial ambiance, mostly due to the fact that there was still a ton of unpainted concrete all over the place, mostly on the floors. It gave the building a less appealing feel inside the hallways and concourses, and continued to the seats. Really wish they would paint the stairways to the seats, I think that would go a long way towards giving the stadium a better overall feel. A great thing was the giant screens. Should make viewing the game much better for those in the nosebleeds or end zones away from the action.
Edit: The noise level from the bands were deafening, and even at 50,000 fans, without the bands, it was louder than anything I've heard in the dome. This will be the worst place for opposing football teams to play at with the crowd level.
The seating itself is much improved from the dome, but it's still lacking in some regards. The extra few inches of leg room help, but you still need to stand up to allow others through. Also, with the way the seats are connected, you can also feel it every time somebody 5 or 6 seats down sits or stands. It can get a little annoying after a couple hours. A plus is that I never felt uncomfortable sitting in my seat for those several hours. Although they aren't padded in any way, the contours are a major improvement over the old dome seats.
The amenities are alright. It's near robbery what they charge for this here. $10.25 for a beer (and you better like miller light or redds apple ale, that's all they served for beer) is even steeper than before. It was $5.50 for a 20 Oz soda in a cup, or $7.00 for a litre bottle of Aquafina. If the NFL has any wonder why people opt to stay home for their games now they need to look at their concessions prices , that's a big part of the answer. We also tried the cheese curds. They ran out of the regular curds, which was a problem in itself that they were out of something not even halfway through the event. We had to opt for the bacon curds. They were ok. A bit salty if anything.
The biggest issue I saw was the long lines for the restrooms. It was a fairly long wait to use the men's room. I don't ever remember waiting this long for the restroom in the dome, but it's been a few years so I could be wrong. They were nicer overall, with urinals instead of a Packer fan's dinner trough. The fact that they didn't put privacy dividers between the urinals though, in my opinion, sort of defied the point of switching in the first place.
Leaving was a bit confusing. We ended up going out the wrong set of doors, and had to walk all the way around the stadium to get back to the light rail. Some guiding signs inside the stadium for this would be helpful, as we were far from the only ones to suffer this. They did hand out pamphlets outside, but my wife lost it.
Overall, it's a mixed experience, it's a definite improvement over the dome, but there's still bugs to work out. I look forward to going again though, hopefully during a football game, to see the improvements.