Running on two hours of sleep, I finished packing my bags and headed outside to wait for my ride. It was 4:52 a.m. on February 15th — the day I had been looking forward to for weeks.
At 5:20 a.m., a bus full of professionally dressed Iowa students would leave for a four and a half hour drive to Minneapolis, Minnesota. For the next two days, we would tour professional and amateur facilities and meet with executives from multiple sports organizations.
The drive to Minneapolis was a little long, but I spent the majority of it watching downloaded Netflix films (I highly recommend watching the documentary “13th”) on my Kindle, so time flew by pretty fast.
At 10:40 a.m., we arrived safely outside of US Bank Stadium. Twenty minutes later, we started our all-access tour (courtesy of two Iowa alums working for the Minnesota Vikings).
THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS were incredibly close to becoming the Los Angeles Vikings. After years of back-and-forth discussions regarding the funding of the construction of a new stadium, an agreement was reached. In 2016, US Bank Stadium opened for its first professional football game.
As part of the agreement, the Vikings promised to invest more than two million dollars in artwork and photography to place around the stadium, including a beautiful re-creation of Prince using his lyrics and photos and paintings of former players and coaches.
The cool thing about US Bank Stadium (as well as other sports facilities around the country) is that it isn’t just for football games. In fact, when we were there for the tour, the stadium was being used for a home remodeling event. The field was completely covered. (No iconic photo on the field where Stefon Diggs caught the Minneapolis Miracle, but that’s OK. This trip was for far more than just taking awesome photos.)
It has retractable seats, which allows it to be used for baseball, hockey, concerts, showings (like the home remodeling one), and so on. Just because it’s the offseason for the Vikings doesn’t mean the stadium will go unused.
US Bank Stadium has a lot of unique features. It’s home to the five largest pivoting glass doors in the entire world, while the roof is made of ethylene tetraflouroethylene, which allows natural light to flow in, provides an outdoor feel for fans, and makes flyovers before games possible.
And while the Dallas Cowboys have a massive video board hanging from the center of AT&T Stadium and the Atlanta Falcons have a “halo-shaped” video board in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings went a different route.
The video boards at US Bank Stadium are located at both end zones, and they are at eye-level. Due to that, the Vikings lose out on around 5,000 revenue seats, but fans no longer have to strain their necks to look at the screens.
My favorite part of the tour was seeing the Vikings’ locker room. Since I’ve seen it in so many post-game speech videos, it was awesome to finally see it in person too.
After the tour, we went to a Q&A panel with six Vikings’ executives. They seemed incredibly happy to have us there, and it was interesting to hear how they each got to this point in their careers. They provided a lot of really helpful tips for a variety of topics.
When discussing resumes, one executive reminded us to try to keep our resume length to one page and to not exaggerate. Another said to make our resumes stand out by getting creative. They also mentioned some of the qualities they look for in an employee, such as passion and initiative.
However, there was one line I’ll probably never forget: “Never rely on just one face of the franchise.”
THE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES AND LYNX partnered with Mayo Clinic to open Mayo Clinic Square in downtown Minneapolis in 2014. The Timberwolves and Lynx have offices and practice courts inside the facility, and we got to see a little bit of both on our trip. This facility is seen as one of the best in the country, and I can definitely see why. While checking out the Timberwolves and Lynx practice courts, the GM of the Timberwolves, Scott Layden, stopped to talk to us for a few minutes, which was an unexpected (but very welcome) surprise.
We also had a Q&A panel with Timberwolves executives. I learned more about an Inside Sales program the Timberwolves have, and it’s something I might be interested in later on. If you know me, then you know I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in the sports industry. Public relations? Marketing? Journalism? Sales? The list goes on. Good thing I have a couple years to figure it out.
After the Q&A, we went to the Timberwolves-Lakers game at Target Center. That night, they were honoring Flip Saunders, who passed away in 2015. He was a former head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It was my second professional sports game (I went to a Chicago White Sox game during a job shadow a few years ago), but my first professional basketball game. It was a fairly close game, but the Timberwolves pulled away for the win in the end.
After the game was over, we went down on the court to take a photo as a group. It was a really awesome experience and I look forward to possibly attending more games in the future.
THE NATIONAL SPORTS CENTER sits on 600 acres of land, which holds over 50 outdoor athletic fields, two indoor athletic fields, a golf course, eight sheets of ice under one roof, a 8,500 seat stadium, and a velodrome. It is considered the largest amateur sports complex in the world.
It is used for a variety of sports, including soccer, volleyball, skating, hockey, lacrosse, golf, football, and more. Not to mention, the National Sports Center is also the training facility for Minnesota United FC, a professional soccer team in the MLS. Another really cool fact is that “31 of the 48 USA men’s and women’s Olympic hockey players at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games have skated at the Schwan Super Rink at the National Sports Center.”
When we first arrived, one executive made a joke about how now we were seeing the more realistic side of the sports industry. A big part of getting a job in this industry is luck — a job opening at the right place and time. And that’s especially true when it comes to professional sports organizations like the Vikings and Timberwolves.
The National Sports Center has a really cool internship program that really relies heavily on its interns. You’re able to jump around and do a little bit of everything, but things will go wrong if you decide not to show up for work one day.
THE NATIONAL SALES CENTER office is located on the grounds of the National Sports Center. It is a training program that helps trainees learn about ticket sales through hands-on experience.
Trainees are able to stay in dorms at the National Sports Center during the program and get a monthly stipend while working. They do a variety of activities to help maintain focus and health, including yoga and a soccer goal competition.
I look forward to possibly applying for the program in the future.
Thank you for reading! Be sure to keep an eye out for my next post! And if you’d like to see more of my everyday life as an Iowa student, feel free to follow me on social media. Go Hawks!
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