U.S. Bank Stadium is wrapping up a multi-million dollar makeover in Minneapolis, with just a few days left before Super Bowl fans start streaming in.
If you've ever been to the stadium before, you'd notice the changes even before you get in the building.
The National Football League has brought in its own security, with a notably bigger presence, even days before the game starts.
Inside, the stands and concourses have been transformed with teal and blue wraps, leaving only the ranks of purple seats as a reminder that the Vikings have been here for two seasons, and could have been here on Sunday.
"Yeah, we gotta pull the end zones out because they're Vikings end zones, so we gotta take those out, replace those six panels in each end zone," said Ed Mangan, the NFL's field director. "And the panels at the 50, take those out and replace those with blank ones. And then we repaint everything for the Super Bowl team."
Mangan is helped by a staff of about 30, including veteran George Toma, a groundskeeper who has worked on all 51 previous Super Bowls and brags that he used to be able to plant grass on Monday and be mowing it by Friday in the days before sod and artificial turf.
"Then we would have the Orange Bowl or the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and we only had 10 days or 12 days to get ready for the game," Toma said. "And maybe we only spent $5,000 for getting that field ready for Super Bowl. Now it's a few million dollars to get a field ready."
But it isn't exactly the same game, either. Part of the complication this year is that there isn't an alternative location — at least not one warm enough — to rehearse the halftime show. And sharing the field, Toma said, is a challenge.
"So we have to groom the field every day, smooth it out and check everything out. We have to broom it by hand and things like that," Toma said. "And then we even have to take a magnet to go over the field, because nuts and bolts and things break loose from the stages, and we have to pick them up."
There are changes happening in the stands, as well. An electronic wristband has been placed on each of the seats, to be worn by fans and lit up for the halftime show. Lounges have been refitted with chairs — some of nearly 10,000 seats being added to the stadium's capacity. There are additional cables and and equipment, even a hotel room added to the field level — Courtyard hotels had a contest to give away a sleepover in the stadium the night before the game.
Stadium officials say they're impressed by the updates, and say they're even looking to adopt some of them when the Super Bowl is over.
"One of the things that the NFL has done a fantastic job with is improving the wayfinding here in the facility," said Lisa Niess, a spokesperson for U.S. Bank Stadium. "So you'll notice as you're walking through clubs, the concourses, even down on the event level, they've improved some of the maps, the signage, the directional flags, basically to get everybody to the spaces they need to go to."
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