About 28 hours after the Giants left New Jersey bound for Minneapolis, the team left Kansas City bound for Detroit. In a league in which meetings are planned down to the minute, games are scheduled months ahead of time, and even the commercial breaks are on a timer, having a fluid travel itinerary is a rarity. But the blizzard that first closed the airport in the Twin Cities and then crushed the roof of the Metrodome has forced the Giants to be more flexible than they probably would have liked to be.
“This one has probably presented more challenges than I can ever remember,” Giants president and CEO John Mara said on Sunday afternoon from the team’s charter plane that was moments from making what he hoped would be the final leg of the journey, from Kansas City to Detroit.
The game will be played at Ford Field in Detroit with a 7:20 p.m. EST kickoff scheduled. For now.
It had already been a crazy travel weekend spent in the airport and a hotel in Kansas City when the Giants’ flight was diverted there on Saturday afternoon. Then the Giants planned to fly to Minnesota early Sunday morning, in time for a 1 p.m. EST kickoff. “That was our preferred option,” Mara said.
On Saturday night the NFL was told by Metrodome officials that the accumulation of snow on the roof of the building and high winds that prevented workers from tending to its removal made the stadium unplayable until Monday night. The league then moved the game to a 8 p.m. start on Monday in Minneapolis.
But at around 5 a.m. in Kansas City, the Giants received word that the Metrodome’s roof had collapsed and the teams and league spent the better part of the morning scurrying for options.
The first option was the University of Minnesota, which has a new outdoor football stadium.
“But at some point this morning that was ruled out because of the amount of snow they had there and the stadium had pretty much been shut down since their last home game and they didn’t feel like they could get it back up and running in time to play a game there tomorrow night,” Mara said. “You had a lot of issues there, you had snow on the field, you had college hashmarks not the NFL hashmarks. You don’t have instant replay capabilities. You don’t have TV equipment out there. There were a lot of different issues. So that was ultimately ruled out.
“Then the league considered a number of other stadiums around the country that were in domes and Detroit seemed to be the most logical, I think primarily because it’s fairly close by and because Fox already has its TV equipment out there broadcasting the Lions game today,” Mara said. “The commissioner ultimately made the decision to go to Detroit and we were fine with that.”
Mara said that the possibility of playing the game at New Meadowlands Stadium – as the 2005 game originally scheduled for the Superdome between the Saints and the Giants was after Hurricane Katrina – was brought up. “That didn’t get very far,” he said.
Mara didn’t know exactly what kind of a financial loss this would mean for the Vikings, but he assumed it would be sizable. The Vikings are refunding tickets to the game originally scheduled for today, but fans also have the option of bringing them to Detroit for admission that that game. Fans who have tickets to today’s Lions-Packers game at Ford Field will also be allowed to watch the Giants-Vikings game.
Mara also noted that the incident bolsters the call for a new stadium in Minneapolis, something Vikings ownership has been after for some time. “For this to happen in this day and age is pretty incredible,” Mara said.
As for football, the Giants now will have a short week to prepare for their important NFC East game against the Eagles next Sunday.
“Obviously we would have liked to have had a full week, but what are you going to do?” Mara asked. “There’s nothing, it could not have been avoided. Right now this game is the most important one for us, we can’t worry about the Eagles just yet. But certainly you never like to play on a short week if you don’t have to, and this was one of those cases where it couldn’t be avoided.”
With all of this talk about weather and its effect on play and travel, there was bound to be questions about the 2014 Super Bowl which has been awarded to the Giants and Jets and will be played at New Meadowlands Stadium. Mara said this experience has not changed his perspective on that cold-weather outdoors Super Bowl.
“We’re not going to have a dome, so we don’t have to worry about anything collapsing,” he said.