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Vikings Alumni Grateful U.S. Bank Stadium is New Place to Call Home

MINNEAPOLIS — Valhalla can wait.

Vikings alumni are enjoying U.S. Bank Stadium too much.

More than 100 former Vikings players, coaches and administrators reconnected in celebration of homecoming last weekend.

Groups toured U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday night before a Ring of Honor ceremony and saw first-hand that the heritage of the Vikings franchise and Minnesota has been interwoven throughout the state-of-the-art venue. Alumni discovered a 1.75-million-square-foot place that they can call home and be proud of the parts they played in building the Vikings franchise.

Alumni members viewed signature pieces of U.S. Bank Stadium's Art Collection, including works that were created by Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Matt Blair and Bud Grant, as well as graphics, paintings and sculptures that were inspired by the success of the team. They also ventured through Vikings Voyage, a 10,000-square-foot space that features interactive and virtual reality displays and relics of Vikings lore.

A signature element of the Vikings Voyage pays homage to the 1,004 passes caught by Cris Carter during the 12 purple-shaded seasons of his Hall of Fame career. One thousand reflective chrome footballs are suspended from the ceiling above a staircase from the Vikings Voyage to the Vikings Locker Room store.

The scene gave Carter a whole new perspective on his accomplishment.

"It was really breathtaking. I knew there was something special. They had kind of warned me, but I never thought of anything like that," Carter said. "It really encapsulates everything I believed in. I tried to catch everything I could see, and I didn't realize what a thousand catches meant in pro football at the time. I was really stunned. It's a tremendous exhibit."

In addition to Friday night's ceremony, where Ring of Honor members received new purple sport coats that were presented by General Manager Rick Spielman, safety Harrison Smith, receiver Stefon Diggs and center Joe Berger, the alumni attended events Saturday at Winter Park and Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

The Wilf family ownership group of the Vikings reserved a suite to host alumni players for each game, and Vikings alumni have had a strong presence.

Receiver Sammy White and cornerback Bobby Bryant served as honorary captains for the coin toss, and quarterback Tommy Kramer sounded the Gjallarhorn before Minnesota defeated Houston 31-13 for its fifth victory of the season. Ring of Honor members were presented to fans for re-induction at halftime.

"I was up here for the Green Bay game, and that's the loudest I've ever heard anything," Kramer said last Friday, two days before helping rile up the crowd. "It was loud. It's a beautiful stadium. I just congratulate the Vikings on having this type of structure."

The return to Minnesota stirred memories Kramer had of the Metrodome, which hosted the Vikings from 1982-2013 at the same downtown site, and Metropolitan Stadium, the Bloomington home of the Vikings from 1961-81 that has been replaced by the Mall of America.

Randy Moss recently returned to Minnesota and visited U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time as a member of ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast team. Moss spoke with "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen for a Vikings: Beyond the Gridiron segment and shared his thoughts on the stadium.

As part of Alumni Weekend, former Vikings players paid a visit to Winter Park on Saturday.

"It's beautiful," Moss told Allen. "I'm still an old-school guy, so my love and my cleats and all my bumps and bruises are left in the Metrodome, but I think this here, the city, the state, Vikings fans worldwide have been waiting on this opportunity to have their own statement. I think this place is going to be electric."

Robert Griffith said that U.S. Bank Stadium and the warm welcome home were "incredible."

"It's exceptional for the Vikings to put their arms around all of the old guys and show them that we were part of helping to build this," Griffith said. "I know I didn't play in this place, but I played in the same location and I feel a part of it. This is the best stadium in the NFL, hands-down the best stadium in the NFL.

"Dallas? Not a shot. This is it," Griffith added. "Hat's off to the Wilfs. They really put their appointments in the right places, and I think any corporation or regular citizen that comes in here will get their money's worth. Having a good team on the field makes it all better."

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