After days of effort with hundreds of workers and volunteers, the Minnesota Vikings finally cleared out all the snow from TCF Bank Stadium ahead of the team's first outdoor home game in 29 years. Though the frozen field was still dangerous -- one team player went so far as to call it "unplayable" -- the Vikings had done the best they could to get things ready for Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears.
The reward for their around-the-clock effort: six inches of fresh snow.
Minneapolis is in the midst of another winter storm that is expected to dump as much as a half-foot at the team's temporary home stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Monday night's game against the Bears will be played in sub-freezing temperatures on a field that was already feared to be as hard as concrete. A new layer of precipitation will only make the surface more treacherous.
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Snow began falling around 10 a.m. local time and is expected to continue throughout Monday night's game. (A winter storm warning is in effect until Tuesday morning.) Temperatures will dip to the low-20s during game time and wind chills are expected to be below-zero. Fans in attendance who had been hoping to stay warm with a beverage or three will be out of luck too: There will be no beer sales at the game.
The game was moved to TCF Bank Stadium after the Metrodome collapsed under the weight of 17 inches of snow that blanketed the Twin Cities last weekend. Much of the time since then was spent clearing the same snow from the outdoor college stadium, which had been closed for the winter after the University of Minnesota football team finished its home schedule in November. But just as that process was finishing, new snow began falling.
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It's yet another stadium-related concern for the league, which has been worried about the playing surface at the stadium. Because there are no heating coils under the field (all outdoor NFL stadiums in cold climates have them), the turf will be frozen solid.
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe(notes) said the field may be unplayable. In a series of Tweets, he said it was hypocritical for the league to be so concerned with player safety on hits, but not with field conditions.
It's going to be a headache for players, coaches, officials, team personnel and people traveling to and from the game. But for those NFL fans who will be watching from the comfort of our own homes, there's only one thing to say: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
- TCF Bank Stadium