Friday, June 26, 2015

U.S. Bank Stadium: A Total Fan Experience

Vikings Vice President of Stadium Development Lester Bagley talks about how the Vikings are using technology and engagement strategies to make U.S. Bank Stadium the most innovative in all of sports. 

Updated: June 26th, 2015 5:35pm

By: Daniel House

The Minnesota Vikings new stadium is starting to engulf the downtown Minneapolis sky-line. As the opening date of July 2016 approaches, Vikings Vice President of Stadium Development Lester Bagley is encouraged by the progress over the last few months of work. The project is already 60% complete and over $500 million has already been installed on the project. On a daily basis, $1.5 to $1.8 million is spent on stadium construction. With 1,100 construction workers on-site, the stadium is starting to take shape rapidly. Minnesota Vikings staff and the architects at HKS Inc. are starting to see their vision come to life. The Vikings had 12 years to study stadium concepts as they awaited approval for their stadium. During this time frame, they learned the positives and negatives of other stadiums that have been built in recent years. Bagley believes that this has helped Minnesota develop a stadium that will be second-to-none.

"The benefit of taking 12 years is that we got to go to every other stadium and talk to architects and team leaders to find out what was important. We got to pick some of our favorites and what we liked and didn't like and learned the mistakes that were made in construction. There was some benefit to the long run up to getting it done by just being able to look at other stadiums. Over the last few weeks or months, we are starting to get more and more comfortable and confident that this is going to be a game-changer and is going to deliver a stadium that is second to none," Bagley explained.

The Vikings are using every new innovation to make U.S. Bank Stadium one of the most advanced in the NFL. They will be using the most up-to-date forms of technology to provide fans with a total game day experience. An app is being developed that will allow fans to engage with the team before they even arrive at the stadium. This app will allow you to order food, check for the best available parking ramps, and much more. During the game, fans will have the opportunity to watch highlights and replays that may have been missed on the high definition video boards. 

Over $60 million will be contributed to the development and use of technology in the new stadium. To put this in perspective, the Metrodome cost just $55 million to build back in 1982. 

"The game day experience doesn't start in the stadium, it actually starts when you get into your car on your way to the stadium. We will be able to two-way communicate with our fans about traffic, parking, best gates to enter, and those types of things. Once you get to the game, you will have an opportunity to download an app and get whatever you want. You can get food information, you can order food, so it is waiting for you when you go to pick it up, so you don't miss any of the game or time-outs even. You'll pop up, grab your, food, and come back down. There will be game activation, game experience, game highlights, replays, fantasy football information; so tons of information in a two-way communication with our fans," Bagley added. 

In order to promote fan interest and engagement, the Vikings built a stadium preview center in downtown Minneapolis. The center provides fans with a comprehensive look at how the stadium will provide the ultimate game day experience. The tour begins as if fans are walking through the Vikings locker room. As you saunter through the 'tunnel', audio and video of select Vikings players are playing along each side of you. At the end of the corridor, fans reach an area which displays models of the stadium, a preview of seats, club suites, and much more. All of these features were designed to get fans excited to purchase tickets in the new stadium. All the season ticket owners had the opportunity to visit the preview center to purchase tickets. Bagley said the Vikings researched other preview centers, but he believes the Vikings version is superior.

"It has gotten our fans excited and that's what it was designed to do. It was designed to be interactive and get our fans excited about the opportunity to buy tickets, and to participate in Vikings football. People are genuinely getting excited about the team and then when you add this preview center, the vision for the fan experience and the stadium; it has been successful," Bagley explained.

Last week, the Vikings reached a naming rights agreement with local fortune 500 company U.S. Bank. Now, the team can move forward with U.S. Bank Stadium as the branding for the new stadium. Bagley is excited the team found a company whose culture and values align with the Vikings organization.

"[The agreement] is part of what was allowed and secured through the legislation and negotiation. It was a significant partnership with a great Minnesota company. It was good news that we had 17 fortune 500 companies to talk to and we got one that we think represents Minnesota, is a great company, and is a great partner. Our businesses align, our cultures align, and we are honored to be their partner and I think that goes for U.S. Bank, as well. It was a big deal and it wasn't just done and announced in a week. It took over two years to get the deal done," Bagley responded.

As the target opening date of July 2016 quickly approaches, fans are starting to get excited about some of the features that will make this stadium one of the most unique in the nation. Bagley is specifically looking forward to the 60% clear roof, the five pivoting glass doors, along with seats and suites that are closest to the action. However, he believes that the overall fan experience will be the most coveted feature in the new stadium.

"I think it's the overall fan experience. Everything we have done since day one has been to make sure this building delivers that best in class fan experience. Every decision we've made has come back to fans and fan experience," Bagley reiterated.

Many are concerned that the new stadium won't provide the same homefield advantage that Vikings fans were accustomed to at the Metrodome. However, Bagley says this won't be the case. According to engineers working on the project, the ETFE roof fabric is more acoustically reflective than the Metrodome teflon.

"The ETFE product on the roof is supposedly, [according to the engineers] more acoustically reflected than the Metrodome teflon. It may not be as loud in that intensity, but we are comfortable about the noise and home field advantage too because we think that is part of what makes a great home stadium," Bagley explained.

Not only does Bagley believe the Vikings stadium will help the team gain momentum in the future, but he feels the organization is already heading towards their goals on the playing field.

"We are going to have a good team. We only won seven games last year, so we've got to be cautious about making any predictions, but I do think we have a very good team with some very good young talent; mixed in with some veteran leaders. We are very excited about it. I think Coach Zimmer is outstanding; Teddy is going to be great. Matching up a defensive minded coach whose scheme actually attacks opposing offenses; combining that with one of the brightest minds in the NFL in Norv Turner on offense - is a force just on the game planning and on game day. Great talent, great coaches, great teachers, and just a very exciting time to be a part of Vikings football," Bagley concluded.

The Vikings stadium won't open until July of 2016, but fans have to be intrigued by how the Vikings are using technology, advanced engagement techniques, and other strategies in an effort to provide the state of Minnesota with the most complete fan experience in all of sports.


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