First look: Vikings stadium caters to connected fans

Wireless access points and a distributed antenna system are designed to boost Wi-Fi and cellular coverage, and a Vikings stadium app puts content and services in fans' hands.

panorama US Bank Stadium
Credit: Network World/Ann Bednarz
U.S. Bank Stadium

A striking vessel of steel and glass, the new home of the Minnesota Vikings is designed for fans with smartphones. The infrastructure and apps are in place: The stadium is blanketed with wireless access points built into handrails and a distributed antenna system to boost mobile coverage, and a Vikings stadium app keeps ticket-holders connected. Fans can order food and drinks from their seats, figure out which restrooms have the shortest lines, and watch instant replays on their own devices. Before they arrive, visitors can view parking availability, determine the least-congested entrance gate, and manage digital tickets.

us bank stadium exterior earthcam
Credit: EarthCam
Icy influences

The stadium's slanted roof is designed to shed snow and inspired by regional qualities, including the jagged geometry of ice flows colliding on frozen lakes. The structure reaches 270 feet high at its west peak and slopes down to 205 feet on the east end.

To keep fans in the loop during the construction process, EarthCam installed cameras at different vantage points to capture photos, stream live feeds, and record time-lapse videos. Pictured is a still from the stadium webcam at U.S. Bank Stadium.

clamshell detail Vikings stadium
Credit: Network World/Ann Bednarz
High-tech handrails

Designed by Dallas-based HKS Architects, the stadium will host Super Bowl LII in 2018 and the NCAA Final Four in 2019. To boost wi-fi coverage, there are 1,300 CenturyLink access points installed in slim, proprietary “clamshells” that are built into the stadium handrails.

clamshell seats Vikings stadium
Credit: Network World/Ann Bednarz
Wi-Fi coverage

The stadium, which seats 66,200 people, is designed to accommodate all fans on their devices at one time, but actual use is more likely to hover at about 30,000 fans during a regular season Vikings game. Burstable bandwidth will be tapped for events such as Super Bowl LII, when seat capacity is expandable to 70,000.

"Theoretically, all 66,000 of us at a Vikings game could jump onto the Wi-Fi," said John Penhollow, vice president of corporate & technology partnerships with the Minnesota Vikings.

antenna close Vikings stadium
Mobile coverage

Verizon Wireless installed a neutral-host distributed antenna system (DAS) to create an even playing field for major wireless carriers.

antenna Vikings stadium
DAS delivers

“We can't get away with having you come in the building and only getting one bar or two bars on your phone. It needs to work, and you need to use it,” said Penhollow of the neutral-host distributed antenna system from Verizon. "It simply just means that it shouldn't matter who your carrier partner is, whether it's Verizon or AT&T or Sprint or T-Mobile, you should be able to come into the building and have a great, powerful signal."

vikings app Vikings stadium
Vikings mobile app

The Vikings’ mobile app lets users stay on top of team news, stats, video clips and podcasts. New features, tied to the completion of the stadium, include tools to download tickets, watch instant replays, get driving directions, and navigate the stadium. The app integrates functionality from Ticketmaster, Aramark, point-of-sale solution Appetize, seat-upgrade tech Experience, loyalty company Skidata and content app developer Adept.

retail pos Vikings stadium
Credit: Network World/Ann Bednarz
Order by app

The Vikings app also allows fans to order food and drinks from their seats and select express pick-up service rather than waiting in line to order at concession stands. In the future, fans will be able to have food and beverage orders delivered to their seats.

giant screen Vikings stadium
LED video boards

Two giant LED video boards are positioned above the end zones -- as low as possible so fans don't have to look far away from the action on the field. They're "very, very low to the field, about as low as we could possibly push it without getting a call from the league office," said the Vikings' Penhollow. The west video board (pictured) measures 120’ x 68’ and ranks as the 10th largest in the NFL.

vikings roof material
Credit: Network World/Ann Bednarz
Maximizing natural light

To maximize the natural light in the stadium, the designers used ETFE (ethylene-tetra-fluoro-ethylene) for the roof structure. Transparent ETFE is designed to let in light, like glass, but it’s a lighter and more economical material than glass. It’s also self-cleaning, according to the stadium. ETFE is used on the entire south side of the stadium’s roof and 60% of the total roof surface (248,000 square feet).

exterior detail Vikings stadium
Light and dark

The exterior of the 1.75 million square-foot stadium is made from zinc metal panels, which will patina over time, and 200,000 square feet of glass and glazed curtain walls.

exterior Vikings stadium
Downtown digs

The Minneapolis skyline is reflected in the stadium’s glass-paneled exterior. U.S. Bank Stadium is tied into the city’s existing skyway system, which includes more than eight miles of enclosed, climate-controlled walkways connecting the downtown area.

us bank stadium doors
Credit: Network World/Ann Bednarz
Supersize entrance

A striking design element is the Legacy Gate, which is made up of five of the world’s largest glass doors that range from 75 to 95 feet tall. Each door extends 55 feet across and contains 10 smaller doors that can be used in bad weather. Hydraulics control the massive Legacy Gate doors, each of which weighs 57,000 pounds.

press room Vikings stadium
Workspaces for the press

There are more than 2,000 TVs placed throughout the building. Among the 2,000 screens is fantasy football board that’s installed above a designated fantasy seating area for ticket-holders who want to keep tabs on other games around the league. Pictured is the press box.

vikings voyage Vikings stadium
Next up: Vikings Voyage

Still under construction is Vikings Voyage, a 10,000 square-foot interactive space for fans that will be free for fans of all ages and open during Vikings events. An interactive OLED uniform displays changes in equipment and materials throughout Vikings history.

speed prevails Vikings stadium
Are you as fast as a Viking?

Visitors to Vikings Voyage will be able to play games, including catching passes while wearing a virtual reality Vikings helmet, running a three-crone drill against a current Vikings player’s pace, and hitting a tackling sled that measures impact force. RFID wristbands will allow fans to track their scores and compete against other players.

giant sail Vikings stadium
Nautical influence

Positioned outside the west entrance of the stadium, the Legacy Ship is a 160-foot long sculpture inspired by Viking ships. The ship’s sail functions as a stadium marquee; on the reverse side is a 2,000 square-foot curved LED video board.

backside of sail Vikings stadium
Stadium marquee

The marquee side of the ship's sail advertises the first sporting event to be hosted at the nearly complete stadium: Chelsea and A.C. Milan will face off at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 3 as part of the 2016 International Champions Cup.

skol Vikings stadium
Skol, Vikings

There are 350 original pieces of commissioned art and 250 pieces of framed photography on display in the stadium, including work from three former Vikings players. Pictured is a mural by Minneapolis resident Greg Gossel titled “The Vikings Are Coming!” (Skol is a common Scandinavian greeting that evolved from warriors who, according to Viking lure, may have drank from the decapitated skulls of defeated opponents.)

club room Vikings stadium
Nightclub settings

There are roughly 8,200 club seats within six different club spaces in the stadium. The club spaces have the look and feel of nightclubs.

club purple Vikings stadium
Color purple

Mystic Lake’s Club Purple displays fantasy sports content for fans that are tracking fantasy and live performances. Seating options include couches overlooking the field (pictured).

horn spot Vikings stadium
Fit for the Gjallarhorn

According to Norse mythology, the Gjallarhorn is a horn that was sounded to announce the arrival of the gods. In the Vikings world, it signals the team’s entrance on the field. In the northwest corner of the new stadium, there’s a platform high above the field where the Gjallarhorn will be blown before every game.

installing the gjallarhorn vikings
First Gjallarhorn sounding

Contractors put the giant Gjallarhorn in place at U.S. Bank Stadium in late July. On July 22, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer became the first person to sound the Gjallarhorn inside the new stadium.

locker room Vikings stadium
The Vikings Norseman

On the ceiling of the players’ locker room is a lit-up depiction of the Vikings Norseman.

architects HKS Vikings stadium
Design team

U.S. Bank Stadium was designed by the Dallas-based firm HKS Architects, which also designed Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Pictured, left to right, are HKS architects Lance Evans, associate principal; John Hutchings, sports principal-in-charge; and Bryan Trubey, EVP and director of sports and entertainment.

u.s. bank stadium 1
Using technology to boost the fan experience

A rendering of the new stadium highlights the angular design, the transparent ETFE roof structure, and the massive, multi-story Legacy Gate doors that open onto the plaza.

"We didn’t want to get caught in the trap of saying this is the most advanced stadium around, because the reality is that a lot of what we're putting in the stadium, there are bits and pieces of it that are being used all over the world in some way, shape or form,” Penhollow said. “That said, how could we bundle all of the stuff … in such a way that it enhances the experience?”