Area braces for TCF Bank Stadium impact

Campus area businesses, apartments and police weigh in on possible impacts of the future stadium.

Jim Hammerand

The $248 million TCF Bank Stadium won’t be completed until fall 2009, but University police, business owners, housing officials and neighbors are already considering the widespread impact the 50,000-seat venue will have on the area.

Most plans aren’t concrete and in some cases have changed from one week to the next. But even without specific plans, the community has some idea of what it will face in the coming years.

Businesses

Local businesses are expected to benefit from the volume of people the stadium will draw, but some are bracing for a period of economic uncertainty.

Until several weeks ago, Cindy Doyle was the general manager of Bakers Square at University and 25th avenues southeast. She’s since transferred to another location.

She said restaurant employees were unsure of their futures at Bakers Square.

“We’re waiting out the storm,” she said.

Staff had planned on the restaurant being closed for two weeks in July for renovations, and there was “huge turmoil” as they scrambled to find new jobs, Doyle said.

The restaurant hasn’t closed, though. Renovations are now planned for April 2009.

Todd Suckow, Bakers Square regional manager, said the chain plans to transform the restaurant into “a themed restaurant around the ‘U,’ ” with the “flair of a traditional Bakers Square.”

The $500,000 project is scheduled for six months prior to the stadium’s completion, Suckow said.

That’s the time construction and traffic congestion would hurt the store’s profitability the most, he said.

Suckow said he hopes Days Inn, which owns the land, will allow the restaurant to build an expansion to accommodate game-day crowds.

“We’ll need additional seating to handle the flow” of a neighboring 50,000-seat stadium, he said.

He estimated the expanded restaurant would seat 50 to 100 more people than it currently can, but that those plans, like many, were still in the “rough stages.”

Down the street at Campus Pizza, owner Jim Rosvold said he feels good about a stadium coming back to Stadium Village.

He wasn’t just speaking for his business. Rosvold is president of the Stadium Village Commercial Association. His concern is that there could be too much business to handle.

“That’d be a good problem to have,” he said.

Rosvold said he was confident that University Police will be able to handle game-day crowds.

“I think they learned a lot from those riots,” he said, speaking of the Dinkytown fires and vandalism in 2002 and 2003 after the men’s hockey team won national championships.

University neighbors

James De Sota, Southeast Como Neighborhood Association coordinator, said residents are nervous about the stadium, especially related parking and noise problems.

They aren’t just worried about game days, either, he said, since concerts and other big events would cause noise year-round.

“The environmental impact statement is pretty vague,” De Sota said.

It’s the same in the Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park neighborhoods. Residents brought up similar issues: parking, noise and safety in the immediate future.

Greg Bernstein said he already sees how the University has increased the busyness of the Prospect Park street he’s lived on since 1997. He described drivers negotiating the neighborhood’s winding streets lined with parked cars morning to night.

He frames it as an issue of long-term livability.

“I want my kids to want my house,” Bernstein said. “Will this be a calm place where they’ll want to live?

“This is going to become a zoo, this neighborhood.”

Police

Even though there will be extra people on campus during home games, University police said they won’t see radical changes; they’re already in charge of policing at the Metrodome.

Steve Johnson, University police deputy chief, said the department now hires extra police officers from local departments to work overtime during games. That would continue, he said, at TCF Bank Stadium.

The difference is that University police will be in charge of the area surrounding the stadium as well, Johnson said.

He said there aren’t solid plans in place to deal with higher vehicle and pedestrian traffic because the planning and design of the stadium are still underway.

But the University has hired an outside consultant to develop a traffic plan for the stadium.

“First we need to know how much we are going to need,” Johnson said, “(Then) what we are going to need.”

Aside from traffic and safety concerns, Johnson said the department is excited about the stadium coming back to campus.

Parties weren’t a problem with the previous on-campus stadium, he said, and hosting home games on campus changed the culture of the University.

“There was this electricity around campus,” he said. “The cheering could be heard a long ways around campus.”

Housing

Housing owners and managers are generally looking forward to football games that will soon be truly played “at home,” but they said they aren’t sure how things will play out.

Michael Wilde, Melrose Student Suites student services and marketing director, said Stadium Village will again get the chance to live up to its name.

He called the new stadium the “final and most important part of identifying what Stadium Village is.”

Melrose will benefit from its proximity to the stadium with more exposure, since the building can be seen from where the new stadium will be.

Wilde said he expects an influx of out-of-towners on campus for larger home games, such as those against Wisconsin, but said he doesn’t think it will pose a problem for off-campus apartments.

Staff will be informed of when the home games are and take their regular weekend precautions, he said.

“We’re already prepared to deal with it on a regular basis,” Wilde said.

Lorien Muller, manager of University Village, said she’s anticipating an increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic around the area, but since the stadium is years away, hasn’t put too many plans in place yet.

Muller said unauthorized parking in the lots under and around University Village could be a concern on events days.

The complex will hire extra security on game days to help tenants feel safer with higher volumes of people in and around the complex, Muller said.

But she said she was not concerned about wild game-day parties.

University Village tenants are already generally cooperative with the rules, she said.

While Muller said she’s excited to see Gophers football return to campus, she expects a change in building operations on game days.

“Will it change the way we operate on a Saturday home game? Yeah, probably.”

Yvonne Grosulak, vice president of Dinnaken Apartments, hadn’t put much time into planning yet.

“I’m sure it’s going to impact the community,” she said. “I can’t imagine that it’s not.”

Greek life

With the stadium in its new location, fraternities along University Avenue Southeast are bound to see increased traffic flow past their houses.

The same gold-clad crowds that march west down Washington Avenue Southeast to the Metrodome will, in three years’ time, be marching down fraternity row.

Interfraternity Council President Alex Vu said in an e-mail that the increase in activity will give the Greek community more exposure and increase the desire for people to join – something the fraternities are excited about.

Vu said fraternities already have rules in place about throwing parties and those rules will stay in place.

“I am confident in the current policies and regulations and believe the Greek members are willing to uphold to them and continue to make our homes and chapter houses a safe place to be around,” Vu wrote.