U.S. Bank Stadium gets ready for its first-ever basketball games
U.S. Bank Stadium is putting on a shiny new look and sound for the weekend.
For the first time in the buildings 28-month history, a hard court has been installed to play host to four basketball games. In the premiere event, the Gophers mens basketball team will play the Oklahoma State Cowboys at 9 p.m. Friday.
The four games are an opportunity for stadium operator SMG to conduct a test run at U.S. Bank for the NCAA Final Four, set to be played there April 6-8.
The NCAA requires the host venue to conduct at least one game in advance of the March Madness event. This weekends U.S. Bank Stadium Basketball Classic is an expansion of the requirement.
Were really excited to get these kids in to play here and support the region, SMG general manager Patrick Talty said.
The transformation of the football stadium into a basketball arena was speeding toward completion by midday Thursday. The court was in and the hoops, locked into position, were being raised. Risers were in place for fans. The scoreboards, horns and lights were being tested for basketball purposes.
The first game will start about 6 p.m. Friday, with the University of St. Thomas playing the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, followed by the match between the Gophers and the Cowboys.
On Saturday, North Dakota State University will play Drake University from Des Moines, Iowa, in the first game. South Dakota State University will take on the University of Northern Iowa in the second game.
The building still wont be in full Final Four mode. The court this weekend wont be in the same position as it will for the three games in April. The hard court imported from South Dakota is oriented north-south in the stadiums east end zone.
In April the NCAA will bring in the official court, which will be installed in the familiar east-west orientation of Minnesota Vikings football games.
Curtains for the Final Four, required to be installed at U.S. Bank by the NCAA, are not yet in place. The curtains will provide uniform lighting conditions for all Final Four games and practices.
Some 15,000 fans are expected to show for each evenings games this weekend. Tickets, starting at $15 per evening, are still available.
That, too, will be different in April, when some 70,000 are expected for the national championship more than the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium last February.
Rochelle Olson 612-673-1747