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Official Review by Marcus Traxler, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When the Minnesota Golden Gophers moved back on campus with the opening of TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, the stadium still had a new feel and the Gophers were still getting used to their new digs. Now, with a few upgrades and finding a comfort zone, Minnesota seems to have settled in nicely at the horseshoe-shaped building known as The Bank.
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The Gophers have some really great pieces on their stadium menu that are wide-ranging and unique at the same time. In particular, the Jax Cafe kiosk in the open end of the stadium will catch your eye. There they have prime rib chili ($6), Italian meatballs ($9) and loaded tater tots ($9). There's also a specialization on bacon, with a bacon-wrapped hot dog ($7) and French toast sticks with bacon ($9). It's sort of hidden by the temporary bleachers in the open end zone, but there's a pretty solid food court of sorts. In addition to Jax Cafe, there's a cheese curds stand ($6) and Famous Dave's barbeque.
Some of the more standard options are available too, with hot dogs ($4.75), bratwursts ($5.25), chicken tenders ($6.75) and a Minnesota favorite, the walleye fingers. Coke products are on sale at TCF Bank Stadium in three sizes. The most expensive, the souvenir size, goes for $5.50.
One recent change is the sale of alcohol at TCF Bank Stadium. Since being initially rolled out in 2012, the sale of canned beer and plastic cups of wine is now available. Miller Lite is the main domestic beer, sold in 16 ounce cans for $7.50. Also available are fellow Miller products Miller Genuine Draft, Leinenkugel's, Redd's and local favorites Grain Belt Premium and Grain Belt Nordeast.
Five years into the Gophers' tenure at TCF Bank Stadium, the venue has come through in one huge way for longtime fans: Saturday always feels like game day. Aside from tailgaters, the Metrodome was never the Gophers' true home. It always felt like they were borrowing it for four hours a week. At TCF Bank Stadium, there's more convenient tailgating, better interaction with the players in the form of the Gophers Victory Walk into the stadium two-and-a-half hours before the game, and the seats are much better. As a modern stadium, there's very good views of the field and of the Minneapolis skyline, something that was not possible on either front at the old place.
Stadium Village has been a campus fixture since TCF's on-campus predecessor, Memorial Stadium, which was finally taken down in 1992. As a truly urban university experience, there's a bevy of options for all kinds of tastes, especially if you're up for various ethnic cuisines.
On the traditional sports bar side, a great bar fixture is Stub and Herb's, which is located just a few blocks from the stadium. Likewise for the aptly-named Big Ten Restaurant and Bar, which is a good Gopher watering hole. If you make it to nearby Dinkytown after the game, Loring Pasta Bar is a cool campus location to check out after the game.
There's no question that Minnesota is on the rise under coach Jerry Kill and among the fans at TCF Bank Stadium; there's a great deal of optimism around the Gophers. You will likely be surrounded by knowledgeable and friendly Minnesota fans.
Unfortunately, like many other universities, Minnesota has had trouble filling its student section, which is located in the east end zone and moves into the second deck of the stadium. Depending on the attractiveness of the opponent, that can create the unsightly image of empty bleachers. But for the students that are there, they do a good job of getting into the game and bringing some energy.
If you're a first-time visitor to TCF Bank Stadium, it might be hard to park close to the stadium. Many of the parking spots near the stadium are sold to season-long ticket holders and if they're not, they probably cost $20. But there are two other easy options to get to Gophers game at the stadium.
One option is to park at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on the U of M's St. Paul campus and take a short bus ride to TCF's doorstep. It's $10 to park and there's a pretty good tailgating environment there. The other option is to take the Metro Transit Green Line, which opened in 2014 and runs from the Twins' Target Field to St. Paul and goes right past the home of the Gophers. You'll want to buy a round trip ticket and jump off at the Stadium Village stop when you get to the stadium.
Tickets are pretty reasonable. For $30, there are seats to be had in the new, temporary bleachers installed for the Vikings. There are better and more expensive tickets out there as well. Games against Iowa and Wisconsin are regularly among the season's toughest tickets. If you're a college football fan, you know that there's still a ton of value in watching Big Ten football, as it has been for the last 115 years.
Watch him for a few minutes and you'll quickly understand why Goldy the Gopher is probably one of the best mascots in college sports. Watch closely as he rides his scooter around the field, as he does his push-ups following a Gopher score and maybe you'll catch him spinning his head.
The Pride of Minnesota is also among the nation's best marching bands and worth checking out throughout the game, including prior to the game and at halftime when they take the field.
A final extra point to the University of Minnesota for building this stadium, and creating their home identity for their football program.
Member Review by bcbenzel
Amidst all of the tradition and luster of the Big Ten conference, the Minnesota Golden Gopher football team sometimes tends to get lost in the shuffle. With their new stadium and a new coach, however, people in the Twin Cities have started to give this team another look.
Member Review by Chorizo16 on Jul 09, 2013
Went to see the battle for the Paul Bunyan axe. Half the stadium was red. I loved it. Great atmosphere. The school's HOF was amazing.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Oct 24, 2014
One of my favorite college stadiums, beautiful aesthetic, good fans, no hype, and excellent pre and post game bars and restaurants. All accessible by transit.
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