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The making of Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium

Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
The All-Star game at Metropolitan Stadium, 1965. Photograph: Gerald R. Brimacombe, Minneapolis Star & Tribune.

When local enthusiasts wanted to lure major league sports to Minnesota in the 1950s, they made plans to build an outdoor stadium in the cornfields of Bloomington. Metropolitan Stadium — “the Met” — hosted Minnesota’s professional baseball, football, and soccer teams until the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome replaced it in 1981.

Minnesotans had enjoyed baseball since the mid-1800s. Minneapolis and St. Paul, natural rivals, each had American Association minor league teams that played at Nicollet Park and Lexington Park, respectively. Built in the 1890s, neither park met the standards for major league baseball.

Talk of a new stadium started in 1952. The next year, the state legislature approved the creation of Metropolitan Sports Area Commission (MSAC) to govern operations of the new stadium. A group called the “Minneapolis Minute Men” spearheaded a campaign to raise funds through bond sales. Aided by an investment house and Minneapolis businessmen, the fundraising campaign reached its $4.5 million goal in May 1955. A Major League Baseball committee appointed by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce purchased 164 acres of farmland in Bloomington for $478,899. Dignitaries broke ground on June 20 for the new stadium.

Building the Met took less than a year, despite extreme winter weather and damage from two fires. The finished stadium could hold 30,000 people and had parking for 15,000 cars. Designed by the architectural and engineering firm of Thorshov & Cerny, Inc., the unique cantilevered construction offered fans a clear view of the field from every seat. The total cost came to $8.5 million, at no expense to taxpayers.

On opening day, April 24, 1956, 18,366 people watched the Minneapolis Millers take on the Wichita Braves. The Millers lost 5–3.

Major League baseball expansion in 1960 strengthened interest in bringing a major league team to Minnesota. The Washington Senators, owned by Calvin Griffith, moved to the state to become the Minnesota Twins. At the team’s request, stadium capacity increased to 40,000 seats for the inaugural season. On April 21, 1961, with 24,606 fans in the stands, the Twins played the new Washington Senators in the first American League game at the Met. The Twins lost 5–3.

The Minnesota Vikings football team arrived in the fall of 1961. The Vikings played their first regular season home game on September 17, 1961, to a crowd of 32,236, beating the Chicago Bears 37–13. Removable bleacher seating for football games added in the mid-1960s increased the stadium’s capacity to accommodate the team’s growing following.

On July 13, 1965, the Met hosted baseball’s All-Star Game. The American League team featured Twins players Earl Battey, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Jimmie Hall, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Zoilo Versalles. More stadium highlights occurred when the Twins won the 1965 American League pennant and played in their first World Series, losing 2–0 on their home field to the Los Angeles Dodgers in game seven.

The 1970s brought a new professional sport to the stadium. The Minnesota Kicks soccer team drew an estimated 20,000 fans to watch their first home game against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 9, 1976. The Kicks won 4–1.

The enthusiasm of Minnesotans for events inside the Met fueled the growing popularity of tailgating outside the stadium. In all weather, hardy fans packed a lunch, loaded up their barbecue grills, and joined the tradition of the pre-game parking lot party.

Metropolitan Stadium broadened its scope in the 1960s when it began to host music concerts. The Beatles played there on August 21, 1965, to 30,000 fans. A concert featuring the Eagles, Pablo Cruise, and the Steve Miller Band drew a stadium record crowd of more than 65,000 on August 1, 1978. The Met hosted Ella Fitzgerald, Arthur Fiedler, Andy Williams, the Beach Boys, and many others.

By the late 1970s, the sports teams were no longer happy playing in an aging outdoor facility and made plans for an indoor stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The Twins played their final game at the Met on September 30, 1981. Following the final Vikings game on December 20, fans ravaged the stadium, taking everything from seats to pieces of the goal posts as souvenirs. Wrecking crews demolished the stadium on January 28, 1985, to make way for the Mall of America.

For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ian Stade on 09/27/2016 - 08:31 am.

    Possible addition

    Great article. One addition could be a mention about Midway Stadium, the Met’s main competition for MLB:

  2. Submitted by Greg Utecht on 09/27/2016 - 05:26 pm.

    Some More Information

    Long-time local sportswriter Bob Utecht was co-captain of one of the bond-selling teams for the new stadium. His team was one of the highest-selling groups. He became sports editor of the Bloomington weekly in 1959. Prior to that he worked as an independent promoter and actually brought the first music programs to the new stadium….he called them Music Under The Stars and had the groups perform from a stage built over the pitcher’s mound. One was the Lawrence Welk Orchestra featuring the Lennon Sisters; another was Grand Ole Opry featuring Red Foley and Marvin Rainwater. He brought in a Wild West show one summer with several local acts including Dan Romberg and his Roman Riding. That show also headlined Hugh O’Brien from Hollywood in his TV persona of Wyatt Earp. He also promoted sports car races using the parking lot. Local drivers included Don Skogmo, Bill Peters, and Alex Ratelle. Pure Oil helped sponsor the day-long events. All of these occurred prior to the 1960’s.

    • Submitted by Linda Cameron on 09/29/2016 - 12:47 pm.

      Some More Information

      Thanks for sharing Bob Utecht’s connection to Met Stadium, Greg. This adds another rich layer to the stadium’s story.

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