40 years after Minnesota Vikings’ last game at Met Stadium, good seats still available
Fans stormed the field and took anything that wasn’t nailed down, and some things that were.
ST. PAUL -- Sunday, Dec. 20, 1981, marked the end of an era for the Minnesota Vikings. After 21 seasons at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, the team played its final game there on that cold, blustery day before moving into the spanking new Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.
As the final seconds ticked off in a 10-6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on the 10-degree day, fans rushed onto the field and tore down the goalposts. Many also pilfered what they could find that wasn’t nailed down as well as plenty that was nailed down.
“Everybody was going crazy at the time,” said Tommy Kramer, then the Vikings starting quarterback. “They were carrying out the seats. I was thinking at that time, why would anybody want an old chair?”
Well, 40 years later, some people think it’s pretty cool to have a seat from the Met. And Kramer has figured that out.
“A lot of people will bring me a seat and say they want me to sign it, and they’ll bring me other stuff (from the stadium),” he said. “It’s funny.”
For those who missed out on looting Met Stadium, there are still places to go. Just do a search on Craigslist or eBay.
Want a piece of one of the goalposts? Some fans had brought hacksaws to the final game and cut off sections. A one-foot section that features the signatures of Purple People Eaters Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen (who all were retired by 1981) can be found on eBay for $3,500.
For a much cheaper item, there is a floodlight said to have come from Metropolitan Stadium available for $100 on Craigslist.
“I think it was taken on that day (of the final game), but I don’t know,” seller Tom Jacobs of St. Anthony said. “My dad got it from somebody. He passed away, and we’re trying to sell the house and all this stuff that has been stored in the garage forever.”
T.J. Mutch, 56, is a collector who lives in Lakeville and has spent years accumulating items from Metropolitan Stadium, which opened in 1956 and was home to the Vikings and Twins from 1961-81. His collection includes ticket stubs from the final Vikings game, an exit sign, a banner CBS put up when it televised Vikings games, and a box-office sign with admission prices for the Twins.
Mutch said he once bought five stadium signs for $1,000 from a fan who yanked them off walls at the final Vikings game. He said he’s had an offer of $2,000 for just the box-office sign but he’s not selling it.
Most of the items from the Met that can be found for sale are seats, and one guy to contact is Mark Satterstrom, 63, of Harris, Minn. Satterstrom didn’t attend the final game but said he went to the stadium before it was torn down in January 1985 and was allowed to pick up about a dozen seats for free. He then found a guy to help him refurbish them.
In 2006, Satterstrom got wind of a cache of wooden seats from Metropolitan Stadium that had been sitting for about six years in a field in Mandan, N.D. As Satterstrom tells it, a high school in the area had bought about 2,500 seats before the stadium was demolished and had them carted up in seven semi trucks to use at a baseball field under construction.
When the seats arrived, it was determined they were made for concrete risers and too heavy for the wooden stands being built. So, the city sold the seats to Darrell Itrich, a local businessman.
Itrich broke what he had down to about 1,250 seats because armrests between each seat made it impossible to have 2,500 individual seats. He then started refurbishing and selling some.
After a while, Itrich was paying more money in storage fees than he was making, so he dumped the remaining seats in a field at a friend’s farm. Satterstrom then drove up to see them.
“I was expecting to see a big pile of green and blue,’’ said Satterstrom, referring to the seat colors at the Met. “I get there and it was all brown and gray. I was so disappointed. The stuff had been badly weathered.”
Satterstrom left without buying any but about a month later changed his mind because, he said, he was “the guy to save the seats before they turned to dust.” So he bought about 580 or so that were left for $4,000.
With the help of a company, he started refinishing those seats and putting them up for sale. Five years later, he came across another bunch of Metropolitan Stadium seats for sale.
A friend of Satterstrom’s, John Jensen, learned in 2011 of about 400 plastic seats from the stadium lying around at Mark Evenson Memorial Fields in Bemidji. While the Met initially had all wooden seats, in its later years broken or weathered seats were replaced with plastic ones.
According to Moe Webb, a former treasurer for youth baseball in Bemidji, the city in about 1997 purchased about 450 plastic seats from a seller in the Bismarck, N.D., area, who got them when the Met was being torn down. They were for a ballfield there but didn’t fit right and were put up for sale.
When the seats got to Minnesota for possible use at Bemidji State’s BSU Baseball Field, they were deemed too heavy for the metal risers. About 50 then were passed on to locals who donated $250 or more for construction of a youth baseball field, and the other 400 or so were dumped outside, where they sat for about 14 years.
Satterstrom and Jensen bought the lot for $500.
There was a fit
After all the trouble buyers had fitting the seats to new venues, a match was found at Joe Schleper Stadium in Shakopee. That stadium was outfitted with plastic seats from the Met in the 1980s and they remained in place until 2014, when they were replaced with seats from the Metrodome, torn down after the Vikings’ last season there in 2013.
In December 2014, about 200 of the Met Stadium seats were sold — one for $25, two for $40 and three for $55.
Jon Bradley, a collector who then lived in Bloomington and now lives in Bothell, Wash., bought about a dozen along with an associate and said they were in “pretty rough shape” and “pretty rusted,” But that’s not the case with Satterstrom’s seats, which start at $150 for plastic and $235 for wood. They can be ordered at www.Vendiamo.com. He refurbishes them to look new, and places a mounting stand under each one.
“I can match the original color pretty easily, and I’ll even put a seat number on there that you want,” Satterstrom said. “A lot of people want number 3 (for Harmon Killebrew) on them and they’re thinking that they’re Twins seats. I had somebody call me up and say, ‘I want number 10.’ I said, ‘Earl Battey, that’s an eclectic choice.’ He said, ‘Earl Battey? Fran Tarkenton.’ ”
When he first started selling his refurbished seats, Satterstrom catered more to those interested in the Twins, who played their last game at the Met on Sept. 30, 1981, before also moving to the Metrodome. He has sold two seats to Twins’ TV play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer, who sat in one when he broadcast the first game at Target Field on April 12, 2010.
Bremer this year hooked Satterstrom up with former Twins star Rod Carew, who agreed to sign 10 Met seats if he could have a refurbished one. Carew got one with his uniform No. 29, and that number will be on the others when they go up for sale.
Satterstrom also has gotten a pair of legendary Vikings to sign his seats. head coach Bud Grant and running back Chuck Foreman. Prices are $295 for wooden ones. There also are Grant-signed plastic seat backs and seat bottoms for $75 and $55, respectively.
Satterstrom said he first encountered Grant when he showed up unannounced at his Bloomington home in 2018 and the Hall of Fame coach agreed to a signing endeavor.
Grant, 94, led the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances during their years at Metropolitan Stadium, and they haven’t been to one since they left. Grant said he doesn’t have anything himself from the Met since he’s not a collector.
“What would I do with an old wooden seat?” he said.
For those who do want one, Grant said, “That’s fine for them,” he said before adding, “There’s a lot of crazy people out there.”
A bitterly cold end
Plenty of souvenir seekers showed up for the final game at the Met in which the announced attendance was 41,110 on a bitterly cold day in which the wind-chill factor was minus-8 and there was a 17 mph wind. Both teams were out of playoff contention with the Vikings entering the season finale at 7-8 and the Chiefs at 8-7.
“I remember the Chiefs players begging us to not pass because they were so cold and they wanted us to run the ball so that the time would run out,’’ said then Vikings running back Ted Brown. “They were telling Tommy, ‘Quit passing the ball.’ ”
Kramer didn’t comply, completing 17 of 38 passes for 177 yards. But the Chiefs hung on for the win when Kramer threw an incomplete pass to tight Joe Senser with 15 seconds left in the game on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line.
“It was bittersweet,’’ then Vikings wide receiver Ahmad Rashad said of the final game. “There were so many memories of all the great players who had played there. The stadium was alive but for me it was like a funeral. It was the end of an era.’’
As soon as the game ended, fans spilled onto the field and tore down the goalposts while security officers mostly watched. Some fans climbed onto the scoreboard to rip off lights and other items. In the stands, seats were being taken out.
“They brought screwdrivers and hammers because I saw them taking the seats out,” Rashad said. “I sort of thought then that it would be cool if I had a couple of seats that I could put in my house, but that was a fleeting thought that came and went.”
Bob Lurtsema, a Vikings defensive lineman from 1971-76 who has remained close to the team and was on the sideline for the final game, got a seat and didn’t need any tools. He said he convinced a fan who was carrying out a bunch of seats to give him one. It ended up sitting in his garage for five years before he passed it on to an avid Twins fan.
Lurtsema, nicknamed “Benchwarmer Bob,” appropriately also went home with a bench from Metropolitan Stadium. But he seems to be most proud of something else he got after the final game.
“I was the first one on the field when the gun went off,” Lurtsema said. “I went out on the field and touched the grass because we were going from grass to artificial turf (at the Metrodome). Then I remember I actually dug it up and I put some in a jar. Then I put it on top of the fireplace for a couple of weeks. And then I put it in the far back corner of my lawn (in Lakeville).”
A fan on hand was Bob Bukovich, who has been making Vikings statues out of plaster of Paris and fiberglass resin for about 50 years. He sold about 10 that day at the stadium. Bukovich, now 75, remembers the aftermath well.
“It was chaotic,’’ Bukovich said. “There were a bunch of people tearing down a goalpost and I got the heck out of the way because I wasn’t going to let it fall on me. It could have killed somebody. I saw people walking out with chairs, but they didn’t stop anybody.”
Bukovich said he didn’t take anything from the stadium that day. But in his “Man Cave” at his Inver Grove Heights home, he has on display numerous items from Vikings history, and one is a pennant he acquired that season. It reads, “Farewell to the Met” and “150 Great Games.”
That’s how many regular-season games the Vikings played at Metropolitan Stadium, where they compiled a 90-56-4 record. They also went 7-3 in playoff games there.
“When I hear about the old stadium, it just triggers up so many memories,” Lurtsema said. “There are so many good memories from it.”