Centenarian Gophers fan lays first brick for new stadium

Mortenson helped build Memorial Stadium 84 years ago, and said being involved was an honor.

As a high school sophomore, Hilding Mortenson laid bricks at Memorial Stadium. On Monday, 84 years later, he laid the first brick at the TCF Bank Stadium construction site.

The event marked the laying of the first of more than 500,000 bricks to be used in the stadium’s construction.

It was the first ceremonial bricklaying in the history of Mortenson Construction, the company heading up the new stadium.

Hilding Mortenson, who turned 100 years old on April 2, spread a brick with mortar and then placed it on a ledge.

He called his involvement in the stadium process a “big honor.”

“I haven’t laid a brick in 37 years,” Mortenson said.

After laying the brick, Mortenson joined in singing the Minnesota Rouser, played by a small group of marching band members.

Mortenson Construction Chairman and Hilding Mortenson’s nephew, Mort Mortenson Jr., took off his coat to display his maroon and gold tie before addressing the crowd.

Mort Mortenson Jr. said his grandfather was the superintendent of construction for Memorial Stadium, and he’s excited for the new stadium to be put to use.

“I hope there is a flyover and a capacity crowd,” he said of the stadium’s first game in 2009.

In addition to Mortenson officials, Athletics Director Joel Maturi and Gophers football head coach Tim Brewster were also on hand.

Maturi gave a speech to kick off the event, in which he thanked many people for their involvement – none more than University President Robert Bruininks.

“Simply, without (his) vision, courage and leadership, we would not be here today,” Maturi said.

He also said the ceremony is just one way in which University officials are attempting to draw upon Memorial Stadium at its successor.

“We’ve worked hard to connect the past to the future,” he said.

Brewster, who said the bricks offer something tangible to see in the stadium’s progress, echoed Mortenson officials’ earlier comments that the stadium represents hard work by many people across the state.

“Today’s a culmination of a lot of dreams by Minnesotans,” he said.

The stadium is expected to be completed in July 2009, in time for the team’s first home game of the season against the United States Air Force Academy.

As for Hilding Mortenson’s plans for that first game at the new stadium: “I would like to see the first game here,” he said. “I saw the first one at Memorial (Stadium).”