MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Johnnies-Tommies football rivalry is more than 100 years old with plenty of milestones along the way. On Saturday it will hit another one.
St. John’s and St. Thomas will play the first-ever football game at Target Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m., and more than 30,000 fans are expected to attend.
“We looked at what some other teams have done,” Target Field’s senior director of ballpark operations Dave Horsman said. “The New York Yankees have hosted football, and so we kind of leaned on some teams like that on how to turn a ballpark into a football stadium.”
Planning began a year ago, and Target Field is almost ready. Some changes are obvious and some aren’t — The 6 tons of clay that make up the pitcher’s mound have been removed and covered up with grass, soil and sand. Purple bunting, for the home team St. Thomas, can be found throughout the stadium.
“We also don’t have things like coaches boxes, so we had to convert some suites into coaches boxes and convert some rooms into locker rooms,” Horsman said.
But there’s no doubt that Johnnies-Tommies fans will make it worth their while. The attendance record for a Division III football game is about 17,500. Target Field is expecting more than 35,000 fans Saturday.
“I’m more concerned about what we have to do on the back-end, and making sure our playability is 100 percent for our players,” Target Field’s head groundskeeper Larry DiVito said.
DiVito has worked in Major League Baseball for 23 years and has never had to go from diamond to gridiron, but he’s confident Target Field is ready for kickoff.
“I wish we could play right now. We’re ready, so let’s go!” DiVito said.
DiVito said that about $30,000 was spent on the conversion. To remove the paint after the game, they’ll try and get the grass to grow a little bit, so they can mow it down before the Twins return from their road trip.