EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- When the Minnesota Vikings move into the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium this fall, they will take occupancy of a college venue that has 12,000 fewer seats than the Metrodome did. Though the team says it has devised a plan to get all of its season-ticket holders in at the new stadium, don't expect single-game tickets to be in large supply the next two years.
It looks like one of the immediate effects of the Vikings' move, which will carry them through the next two years while their new stadium is built, is that their home games will be filled almost exclusively by season-ticket holders. The Vikings currently have 11,000 season ticket accounts, comprising about 53,000 seats, and those tickets are typically renewed at a 90-92 percent rate, Vikings ticket sales and hospitality director Phil Huebner said on Friday. That rate could fluctuate this year with fans who don't want to sit outside, but let's be conservative and say the Vikings get 88 percent of their season-ticket holders in at TCF Bank Stadium. That would leave less than 5,000 seats available for single-game purchase next season.
"Right now, it's full," Huebner said. "If everyone renews, we will have very few to minimal seats available on a game-by-game basis. But every sports team has some turnover."
The good news, if you're a season-ticket holder? The Vikings have home games next year against big-name opponents like the Patriots, Jets, Panthers and Redskins, in addition to their regular division schedule. So if you're looking to unload your tickets for a couple games on the secondary market, you might find a nice market for your seats.
A couple other points from the media briefing the Vikings held on Friday to discuss ticket policies at the new stadium over the next two years:
Fans who keep their accounts active, but choose not to buy tickets at TCF Bank Stadium, will still have priority over new ticket buyers when the Vikings' new stadium opens in 2016. The team will require season ticket holders to by personal seat licenses at the new stadium, and the Vikings will launch that program later this year, so purchasing a seat license would guarantee tickets in the new stadium anyway. Fans who pass up on tickets the next two years, though, would slide behind those who bought tickets at TCF Bank Stadium on the priority list.
Unlike in normal years, where fans are able to pick their seats, the Vikings assigned seats for current season-ticket holders at TCF Bank Stadium. In some cases, that meant bumping fans with lower-level seats in the Metrodome up to the top deck at TCF Bank Stadium, which has 7,000 fewer lower-level seats than the Metrodome. "The upper level at TCF Bank Stadium is cantilevered over (the lower level)," Vikings VP of sales and marketing Steve LaCroix said. "It's some of the best seats in the stadium. The Gophers have educated us on that, that their fan base really enjoys a lot of those upper-level sideline sections."
The Vikings will have fewer suites available at TCF Bank Stadium than they did at the Metrodome, too -- the Gophers' stadium only has 39, and the current owners of those suites would have right of first refusal to keep them for Vikings games. By Feb. 1, the Vikings will know how many suites they have available, and can offer other premium seating options like loge and club seats that aren't available at the Metrodome.
Between a smaller stadium, fewer available suites, the rent the team must pay to the university, and the upgrades it will fund at TCF Bank Stadium, the Vikings will likely make less money from their home games than they have in recent years. That is why it wouldn't be surprising to see the team push for a return trip to London in 2015, since the NFL would reimburse the Vikings for the average revenue of a normal home game. If the NFL were to pay the Vikings what they would make from a Metrodome home game, instead of what they would make at TCF Bank Stadium, the trip could be even more worthwhile.