Metrodome readies for battle over Bunyan’s Axe

by Mark Remme

Odds are Paul Bunyan would want to be around campus this weekend.

A year’s worth of anticipation culminates Saturday as Gophers and Badgers football fans flock to the Metrodome hoping to leave with Bunyan’s coveted ax.

Though the heated rivalry draws hype from students in Minneapolis and Madison, Wis., as a means of competition, history has proven that students have found ways to peacefully interact.

A sellout crowd of 64,000 is projected to engulf the Metrodome, a significant increase from the 48,000 the Gophers have drawn on average for each of their games since 2004, said athletics ticket office manager Dan Teschke.

The sellout would mark the first for the Gophers since Wisconsin’s last visit to Minneapolis, on Nov. 8, 2003.

With the enflamed attendance as a factor, Minneapolis Police Department public information officer Ron Reier is looking to beef up security outside the Dome to a certain extent.

“This game won’t be a whole lot different than other games,” Reier said. “We’ll put 15 extra officers outside and there will also be more light rail and transit police involved.”

Civil engineering senior Jake Newhall said he looks forward to games against the Badgers but doesn’t see a major cause for concern in terms of riots or disorderly conduct.

“It’s a friendly competition between hated rivals,” Newhall said. “It’s basically about bragging rights.”

There will be many Wisconsin fans both on the streets and tailgating, but that doesn’t automatically mean riots will ensue, he said.

Residential housing is looking to the past in preparing for the weekend, which promises to see a large number of guests staying in the residence halls.

Wachen Anderson, program director of central housing, said it’s hard to differentiate between weekends because there are numerous guests that come through every weekend. However, previous rivalry weekends do not stand out as riot-filled or unruly, he said.

“Students and their guests are accountable for their behavior regardless of the weekend,” Anderson said.

The consensus lies in the hope for a friendly bout between two longtime foes, while fans enjoy a certain feeling in the air unmatched by other opponents who come to town.

“Definitely there’s a buzz on campus when Wisconsin comes to town,” Newhall said. “It’s much different than if we play Florida Atlantic.”