Spirit makes a home of the Metrodome

By Margaret

If we could turn back the clock and wave a magic wand, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome would have been built on campus as the home of the Golden Gopher football team and the Vikings. If wishes could come true, a donor would have come forth with $70-75 million for a new 50,000 seat Memorial Stadium.
From a sentimental standpoint, I can relate to alumni who want to bring Gopher football back to campus. A native of Kansas, I arrived in Minnesota in the fall of 1966. I attended a game at Memorial Stadium, and, in less than a month, I had season tickets to Gopher football. Learning the Minnesota Rouser, getting on my feet to spell M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A, was an exciting way for me to bond with my new state.
But my chances are probably slim-to-none that there will be a stadium in the heart of campus for only six to seven home games per year. How can I be so pragmatic when the alumni association is one of the major keepers of the spirit, pride and tradition on campus? The answer is twofold.
First, major research universities are going to need enormous amounts of money to stay competitive in the 21st century. The “must-haves” include competitive salaries for faculty and staff, scholarships for students with need and talent, cutting-edge information systems and refurbishing the many aging classrooms and office buildings. The list goes on and on.
Second, a transformation occurred last season that made the Metrodome feel more like playing on our home turf. Thanks to a wonderful collaboration among the athletic departments, student affairs, the alumni association, university relations, and the city of Minneapolis, the atmosphere surrounding home games has changed completely. We no longer feel like the visiting team in our own stadium.
Tailgating was reintroduced in the parking lots along Washington Avenue. The new Metrodome Plaza was ablaze with pre-game activities, music, food, our maroon and gold colors and crowds.
The missing ingredient is a winning record. Glen Mason, a former player and coach at Ohio State, has come back to the Big Ten to turn around Minnesota’s program. All indications are that he will recruit well and win with integrity, which is important to an institution that believes “student-athlete” is one word.
We know what the coaches and players need to do. But we need to do our part as alumni, faculty, students, parents and fans. We need to fill the Metrodome to capacity — week after week — to cheer our team. By dressing in maroon and gold and letting the team hear our cheers and applause, we can make the difference in a close game. When we are winning, there will be much less skepticism about the Metrodome, which is less than a mile from Coffman Memorial Union.
So, we are left with three choices: to lament for what should have been, to hope for the improbable, or to think of the Golden Gophers as the home team for the state of Minnesota — not just the University of Minnesota. By doing so, the Dome can be our home.
Margaret Sughrue Carlson is the executive director of the University’s Alumni Association.