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Bemidji family has fond memories of Metrodome, which marked its last day Sunday

Watching the Vikings at home has been a family tradition for the Malteruds for the last four years. Making a family weekend out of it -- visiting Valleyfair, a zoo, perhaps taking in a Twins game -- the family now always plans to attend the first home-opener of the regular season. Pictured in 2012 are, from left, Sierra, Misty, Chris and Weston. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Chris Malterud has the longest ties to the Vikings, having been raised a devoted Vikings fan. But Misty, who was introduced to the game in 1998 by Chris, has become as fervent a fan as well. Now, having obtained season tickets and traveling to stadiums throughout the country to watch the Vikings play, the couple has developed close friendships with recognizable fans such as this one, Syd Davy, known as 100% Cheese Free. Submitted Photo2 / 2

BEMIDJI — Within minutes of their first visit together, they were hooked.

“One of the first things we said to each other was, ‘Oh we are so coming back,’” recalled Misty Malterud.

It was Oct. 24, 2004, and Misty made her first visit to the Metrodome, watching the Minnesota Vikings defeat the Tennessee Titans 20-3 alongside her husband, Chris, a longtime devoted Vikings fan.

“I remember actually blinking away tears because it was so surreal, being there,” Misty said. “The sound of the Dome, it’s almost like this hum, and it’s so big. I hadn’t even been to a Twins game before … and you just walk in and it’s like, wow. The electricity that was in there, I was floored — and hooked.”

The Malteruds have since accumulated a decade’s worth of Dome memories together, including on-field experiences, encounters with players and staff, and more personal moments, like their children’s first Dome game in 2010.

“It’s definitely been a passion for all of us,” Chris said.

Today, the Vikings mark their final game at the Dome, hosting the Detroit Lions at noon, capping off 31 years in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, having played — and won — their first regular-season Dome game on Sept. 12, 1982.

“Its just going to be different,” Misty said, looking toward the new Vikings stadium, expected to open in 2016. “It’s going to be a beautiful stadium, but there’s something about history. It’s exciting when something is new, but being there (in the Dome), the sounds, the smells, everything, it all brings back fun memories of celebrating.”

Favorite games, favorite moments

A few seasons ago, 2009 provided a variety of landmark wins and moments as former Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre joined the Vikings.

The couple, who attended all but one home game that season, actually watched Favre’s first game as a Viking, having traveled to Cleveland for Chris’ 40th birthday to tailgate with friends and and watch as Adrian Peterson ran for three TDs, driving Minnesota to a 34-20 victory.

Two games later, the Malteruds were in Minnesota as the Vikings took on San Francisco. As the 49ers drove to a 24-20 lead, legions of Vikings fans filed out of the stadium as the clock ran past two minutes and edged closer toward double-zeros.

“So many people had left because they thought the game was over,” Chris said.

But not he and Misty, who like many Minnesota fans, was less than welcoming as Favre donned the purple-and-gold.

“I told (my friend) that if Brett Favre could do for Minnesota what he did against us for all those years, I would buy a Brett Favre jersey,” Misty said.

Sure enough, with two seconds to play, Favre completed a game-winning 32-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lewis.

“She had to buy the Favre jersey,” Chris said.

“I got a picture in it, and yes, I still have it,” she said.

That season marked a great year for the Vikings, who went 12-4 in the regular season.

As Minnesota hosted the Dallas Cowboys in the division playoffs, Misty and Chris were in the Dome stands as the Vikings won 34-3.

“I turned to him and said, ‘Are we going to Florida?’ (referencing Miami, the site for the XLIV Super Bowl), and he said, ‘Book our tickets,’” Misty said. “We really almost booked our flights because we thought for sure we’re going to the Super Bowl.”

But the Vikings would lose in overtime the following week, falling to the New Orleans Saints 31-28 in the NFC Championship.

“Whether they win or whether they lose, we’re still Vikings fans,” Misty said. “We may be continually frustrated with them, but you can’t change them. We’re fans. True fans.”

She paused.

“Really, as a Vikings fan, you learn what hope truly is.”

‘Years of heartbreak’

Chris, a former high school football player and Bemidji native, long has been a Vikings devotee.

“I’ve been a Vikings fan since I can remember,” Chris said. “I grew up a Vikings fan.”

His first Vikings game, as a young teen, was actually in the old Metropolitan Stadium, or “The Met” as it’s affectionately known.

“I had many, many years of heartbreak,” Chris quipped.

It was through Chris that Misty — “who probably knows more about football than any other woman I know,” Chris says — was introduced to the sport.

“I used to hate Sundays,” Misty said. “I couldn’t even stand the noise of it. Finally, I said, ‘OK, Honey, sit me down and teach me the game so I can watch it with you.’”

It was 1998, and as far as Minnesota Vikings football goes, it was about as strong a season as they come. The team finished the regular season 15-1 but lost in overtime, 30-27, to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship.

“The year I became a fan was 1998, and that’s why Randy Moss will always be my favorite player,” Misty said. “I fell in love with the game with those four — Jake Reed, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Randall Cunningham. What a year to fall in love with football.”

In recent years, Chris’ and Misty’s children, Weston, 14, and Sierra, 10, also have been attending games, making the home-openers family affairs. In fact, at their first game, thanks in part to some rather outstanding face-painting work, Weston was featured on WCCO News in the Twin Cities.

Their home is decked out in Vikings memorabilia and Chris is especially hopeful that a forthcoming lottery for existing Dome seats will provide him at least one stadium chair to mount on a wall for a planned Vikings-themed theater.

“My favorite part of the game, every single game is the very beginning,” Misty said. “They play ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ by Guns N’ Roses, and there’s all the fireworks, the whole energy in there when all that is happening, with the booming noise, the whole place literally shakes. It’s just electric in the air, the excitement, it’s all so huge.”