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Outdoor game 'a part of history' for Vikings fans

Grounds crew workers at TCF Bank Stadium remove the tarp from the field prior to Monday night's football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

MINNEAPOLIS - On Monday night the Minnesota Vikings capped off their 50th season by hosting an outdoor game for the first time in 29 years.

Forced from the indoor Metrodome because of a blizzard that caused a collapse of the Teflon roof, the Vikings played at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

An unusual season, in which a Vikings team with Super Bowl hopes has been eliminated from playoff contention, was re-energized with a return to the great outdoors.

"It's always been a dream," said spectator Vic Machan of Deer River. "To see outdoor football in Minnesota once again, this is great."

Machan, who was 17 when the Vikings last played outdoors, remembers watching Bud Grant lead the team onto the field at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.

"I had to be here for this game, too," he said from his front-row seat at the 50-yard line. "It's fun to be a part of history. This may never happen again."

Machan, who left Deer River early Monday morning, got to the stadium at 1 p.m. to get in line for the first-come first-served seating plan. "They didn't let us into the stadium until 4:45, but we wanted to get the best seats we could."

His friends weren't deterred by the cold weather, either.

"Shoot, I hope it snows," said Jason Marquette, who met up with the group from Fergus Falls. "It's awesome to be here to watch this stuff outside. Like earlier when it was snowing, to just stand here and look out over the field, it's just surreal."

Seven-year-old Jayden Wilson of Bemidji wasn't quite so enthusiastic. "I don't know," he said when asked about his favorite part of the stadium. Bundled up, with his hands tucked inside a blaze-orange hand-warmer, he seemed more concerned with just trying to stay warm.

"It's cold, but he's enjoying himself," said his older brother, Josh. "I love this stadium, but I think it would make more sense to have a retractable roof. Everyone is excited now, but I think it would lose the thrill if every game was played in the cold."

Kevin MacGregor disagrees.

"Finely," he emphasized. "Just being outside to enjoy the game, now this is football. It's good for three wins a year, too, a definite home-field advantage." The Minneapolis native has nine season tickets, but is a Packers fan. "I go to two or three games a year at Lambeau Field so I think outdoor stadium just like this is what we need."

"I disagree," his girlfriend countered. Megan Flaherty has been to Lambeau with MacGregor, but prefers an indoor stadium. "Are you kidding me? I don't want to wear this gear every game. Anything past November I don't want to be out."

The success on the field may have been short-lived, but fans were able to enjoy themselves in ways not possible at their indoor home. After Percy Harvin's 25-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, it looked like a Super Bowl celebration with confetti being dropped from the sky, as fans tossed the freshly fallen snow into the air.

It may not be the way many envisioned the season ending, but playing outside made the fans in attendance forget about the disappointing season.

"I don't even care if they win," said Machan. "I just had to be here."