The Vikings head outdoors

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's smaller than the Metrodome. It's got bleachers in the end zone. The few splashes of purple on the field, laid against the maroon backdrop of the seats, look a bit odd. But for the next two years, it's home.

The Minnesota Vikings begin their two-year outdoor odyssey on Friday night, when they host the Oakland Raiders in their first preseason game of the 2014 season. The Vikings will spend the next two years at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, while their new home is built on the former site of the Metrodome.

(If you hear players or Vikings officials referring to it as "University of Minnesota stadium," don't read anything into it; we've already been told there's nothing to our conspiracy theory that the team is trying to avoid mentioning one of the local competitors to U.S. Bank, whose CEO Richard Davis helped spearhead the 2018 Super Bowl bid and who might be one of the front-runners to land naming rights at the new stadium.)

Coach Mike Zimmer has talked about trying to make the best of the Vikings' temporary stadium, never mind the fact most NFL teams haven't fared well in stopovers at college stadiums. The Vikings have sent kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jeff Locke to the stadium to practice several times, and both players created detailed charts of how the wind currents will affect them at different times. The team also moved to the north sideline at TCF Bank Stadium in an effort to get a little more late-afternoon sunlight during December home games (the Gophers use the south sideline at home).

It's a new, and probably somewhat unsettling, era for a team that's lost 28 of its last 35 outdoor games, but the Vikings will try to make the most of it. And for fans, it'll offer a unique experience for the next two years, before the Vikings head back inside. Plan for a little extra time driving down University Avenue before the game, invest in a portable seat back if you're in the end zone, get ready to pull the winter gear out for three December home games and try to make the most of it.

Kicking off the season on a sun-splashed 80-degree August night isn't a bad way to start.