Vikings to start season with no fans at U.S. Bank Stadium for first 2 home games

It will likely be sometime before U.S. Bank Stadium will look like this again. 

The first two Minnesota Vikings home games of the 2020 season will be played without any fans in attendance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the team announced Tuesday. 

The Vikings had been working with state and local officials as well as U.S. Bank Stadium partners and the NFL on how to safely host a limited number of fans at the stadium, but ultimately decided not to allow fans to attend the at least the first two home games on Sunday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 27. 

“Based on our conversations and the current Minnesota Department of Health guidelines that specify an indoor venue capacity of 250, we have determined it is not the right time to welcome fans back to U.S. Bank Stadium,” the Vikings said in a statement. 

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer reacted to the news Tuesday morning before the team held Training Camp practice at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.

"I always felt like we’ve got great fans and we hope to get them back, but it is what it is. So we’ll go out and we’ll play, get ready to go. Hopefully they get back again sometime this year," Zimmer told reporters via Zoom. "We unfortunately can only have 250 people, so it wasn’t worth the cost to open it up for that few fans."

The team is continuing to work with officials on their plans and said they hope to allow fans to attend games at U.S. Bank Stadium later in the season. 

Zimmer said last week it “really stinks” that there wouldn’t be fans at U.S. Bank Stadium at the start of the season, and was frustrated that there isn’t a uniform policy across the NFL when it comes to fans in stadiums as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said there’s a “competitive disadvantage” when some teams can have fans, even if it’s in a reduced capacity, and others like the Vikings can’t.

“I think there’s some unfair things going on around it as far as some teams can have fans and some teams can’t,” Zimmer said. “It’s going to be very hard because some stadiums, they’re allowing people in and it looks like we’re not going to have any fans there early, which really stinks because we have unbelievable fans and they make that place rocking every Sunday.”

As of Tuesday, the Vikings won’t play any NFC North Division games with fans in stadiums. The Detroit Lions will not have fans at Ford Field for at least their first two home games, Sept. 13 and Oct. 4. The Packers will not have fans at Lambeau Field for their first two home games, Sept. 20 and Oct. 5 and the Chicago Bears have no plans for fans at Soldier Field at the start of the season.

Vikings offensive lineman Aviante Collins said Tuesday it will definitely be different playing in an empty stadium. It comes down to loving to play the game.

"Fans definitely help out as far as with animosity, bringing that energy, but you ask any player in the NFL and they all love playing football. They just want to play football," Collins said. "I definitely think things will be different with no fans, but I think we’re still going to enjoy the game, we’re having a great time and we’re going out there to just have some fun."

So far, only five NFL teams have announced plans to have fans at games this year. The Indianapolis Colts won’t have more than 25 percent capacity at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Jacksonville Jaguars plan to have fans at a 25 percent capacity, the Miami Dolphins are planning on about 13,000 fans for their Sept. 20 home opener, the Kansas City Chiefs are planning for about 22 percent capacity at Arrowhead Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys have plans for limited fan attendance at all home games.

The Vikings could potentially play in front of fans when they travel to Indianapolis for Week 2.