MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Vikings will play one more time at the Metrodome before the building is torn down. While most eyes are on the field during a game, WCCO found that police have plenty to do that has nothing to do with football.
From fights in the stands to public intoxication, we took a look at the police reports. When WCCO compared the numbers to other stadiums across the country, we found some big surprises.
They are the days and the plays that football fans live for. It’s a sport that has a way of bringing out both the best and the worst in some people.
After a Broncos game in Denver last week, a scuffle over a parking spot ended with three people stabbed and earlier this month, a man died after being beaten by a tailgater during the Kansas City Chiefs game.
Outside the Metrodome in Minneapolis it is two hours until the Vikings kick off against the Philadelphia Eagles and you know, it’s not just emotions that flow early on. But, we wondered what kind of trouble it all translates into for police.
WCCO obtained police reports from the past five Vikings seasons at the dome. While nothing happened as tragic as what has outside other stadiums this season there were still problems: fights between fans and with police officers. People caught doing drugs and many fans so drunk they were tossed out of the game.
In five seasons, police made 184 reports and 33 arrests.
The Vikings say those numbers are among the lowest in the league.
Jeff Anderson is the Executive Director of Communications for the Vikings.
“It’s incredibly important for us that our fans feel safe are able to enjoy the game,” Anderson said.
The playbook for every game day at the dome calls for 500 security staff along with 60 Minneapolis Police Officers, all paid for by the Vikings.
No matter how many are on patrol, Anderson knows there will always be something to catch.
“When you’re talking about 64,000 fans in a stadium you’re realistic and you know there are going to be some incidents,” Anderson said.
The Metrodome becomes Minnesota’s 15th largest city when the Vikings play at home. Beyond putting plenty of security staff in sight, the team wants fans to text in bad behavior so they know where to look.
The Vikings told us they get about 25 text complaints a game.
A few seasons ago, that reporting system caught male fans urinating in their seats and on each other. When an officer went to get them under control, he was slapped in the face after slipping in their urine. In another case that same season, cops caught some people smoking pot in their seats and when they didn’t want to leave they started spitting at police.
Chris Uggen is a professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota.
“Clearly nobody wants it to be a dangerous event,” Uggen said.
Since sports teams inspire such a strong loyalty and sense of identity in some fans, Uggen said many studies have shown how it can spill into violence.
Like during the 2008 Vikings season, when police responded to a call for help outside the dome to an unconscious fan. A crowd said two men were “arguing about the Vikings game outcome” when one punched the other.
Still, when it comes to these reports Uggen doesn’t see much cause for concern.
Beyond police reports, the NFL has its own way to track what goes on. After every game, all 32 NFL teams are required to fill out a two-page fan conduct form. The number of ejections, arrests and weapons intercepted by security is all recorded. While the Vikings wouldn’t show us those numbers they did tell us they average about nine fan ejections per game.
Starting this season when a fan is ejected they have the option of paying to take an online counseling session of sorts. If that person passes they’re allowed to buy tickets to see the Vikings play again.
Last season our affiliate in Seattle got a better idea of what other cities deal with. That investigation found at 49’ers, Raiders, Broncos and Patriots games there were thousands of arrests every year. In San Francisco alone, 630 ejections were recorded in just one season. Remember the Vikings have fewer than 100.
The NFL told WCCO last season at all 32-stadiums combined there were 959 arrests inside, 540 outside and 8,183 ejections from NFL games.
“We’re proud of those numbers and the fact that they’re so much lower than those around the country,” Anderson said.
While the top priority is fan safety for the Vikings the organization is fully aware of the importance of public perception.
Last season, the team heard from then 10-year-old Teagan Burch. A rowdy crowd using rough language sent them home early.
“We ended up leaving halfway through the first quarter,” Burch said.
“It was disappointing and frustrating,” his dad, Kurt added.
Teagan’s Letter to the Editor got the team’s attention. The Vikings brought them back to the dome to see a game from the press box.
Still a fan of the team, Teagan plans to wait a few more years before giving it another try.
“I think they should just get a family section. As simple as that,” Teagan Burch said.
The Vikings are still exploring a family section in the new stadium, similar to what the Twins and Timberwolves already offer.
So, while the numbers may be among the leagues lowest, the Vikings know this is a case where a smaller score is considered a victory.
WCCO also checked with Green Bay Police. That department ejects and arrests about twice as many fans the Minneapolis Police Department does. The Vikings also told Liz that overall fans feel safe at games. A fan audit last season showed that 88 percent of fans surveyed said they not only felt safe but thought other fans were well-behaved.