Seven Corners businesses run buses to stadium

West Bank businesses offer free ride to keep up with the competition.

by Tara Bannow

For those on the West Bank, getting to Gopher games can get complicated once pre-game festivities and transportation are factored in. âÄúIf they go to a bar before and after the game, theyâÄôre going to get tuned up,âÄù said JJ Maleitzke , general manager of PrestonâÄôs Urban Pub , formerly Sargent PrestonâÄôs . To alleviate the problem, six Seven Corners businesses have hired shuttle buses to run to and from the TCF Bank Stadium before and after Gopher football games. ItâÄôs a move they say has contributed to even better game day sales than when the Gophers played football in the Metrodome . âÄúThis is a way to get from A to B without having to worry about driving,âÄù Maleitzke said. The buses provide a way to stay competitive with the Stadium Village and Dinkytown businesses that are closer to the stadium, Larry LaMont , general manager of the Holiday Inn Metrodome , said. âÄúWe know that parking and transportation could be an issue in those areas,âÄù he said, adding Seven Corners has a good combination of parking lots and ramps. âÄúWith the businesses and restaurants that are available, weâÄôre hoping that weâÄôd be an area people would like to come to.âÄù Mark Johnson, president of the West Bank Business Association , said the buses will definitely make the area more competitive, and the parking ramp adds an element of convenience. âÄúPeople can come down, they can park, they can go have something to eat and drink,âÄù he said, âÄúand take the shuttle over there and take the shuttle back.âÄù There was concern before the Gophers moved that businesses would lose their game day rush, Maleitzke said. To lessen the chances of that, Seven Corners began a promotional campaign, placing radio ads, printing flyers and ordering the buses. Two shuttle buses, free and open to anyone who needs a ride, run from the West Bank to the stadium every 15 to 20 minutes about two hours before and after each game. While the buses have already contributed to his game day business, Pete Rifakes , owner of the Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery , said he expects theyâÄôll draw an even bigger crowd next year when the word gets out. âÄúI think what we offer is a less congested area so people can come over here and not be thrown into the hustle and bustle of the new stadium,âÄù he said. âÄúOver there, itâÄôs just crazy.âÄù The businesses have been sending buses from Seven Corners to the Metrodome for Vikings games over the past two years, but not for Gopher games, Maleitzke said. The Holiday Inn has been shuttling hotel guests to games for almost six years, LaMont said. Each business âÄî PrestonâÄôs Urban Pub, The Corner Bar , BullwinkleâÄôs Saloon, Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, a parking ramp and the Holiday Inn Metrodome âÄî chips in an equal amount to rent the buses. So far this year, PrestonâÄôs business has exceeded last yearâÄôs by a long shot, despite the GophersâÄô move, Maleitzke said. âÄúI donâÄôt think they sold 50,000 tickets at the Dome, and every game is sold out now, so those people have to go somewhere,âÄù he said. âÄúThereâÄôs another 30,000 people in town and if youâÄôve got a good bar, theyâÄôll come there.âÄù