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Al Edenloff / Forum Communications Co., Published December 26 2010

Alexandria man takes charge of removing snow at Vikings’ game

Alexandria, Minn.

A man with Alexandria roots was the quarterback for an NFL-sized assignment – getting the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium ready for the Minnesota Vikings’ Monday Night Football game.

As the university’s associate athletic director, Scott Ellison led the efforts to clear away the snow and reopen the stadium, which had been winterized and shut down shortly after the Gophers’ last home game on Nov. 27.

Ellison is a 1977 graduate of Jefferson High School and has family in Alexandria, including his parents, Janet and Dale, and brothers, Tom and Tim.

One of his many responsibilities at the U is to oversee all the facilities of the athletic department. He’s in charge of a crew of 35 people who make sure everything is operating smoothly at games and practices.

Ellison thought his duties with the TCF Bank Stadium were over for the year – until he received a call from the Vikings’ front office a week ago Sunday. The roof at the Metrodome had collapsed under heavy snow and the Vikings, after playing one “home” game in Detroit, were trying to find a new place to play.

Upping the stakes was the fact that the game would be played on a national stage, Monday Night Football.

Ellison took the challenge in stride.

“It was just one of those deals where they came to us and said they needed a place to play,” he said on his cell phone the previous Friday as stadium preparations were going full bore. “It was a very fluid situation. They were non-committal at first and just investigating the possibilities. They wanted to know if we could get the snow out – in a week.”

It would be the Vikings’ first outdoor football game in 29 seasons.

Like a quarterback faced with a third and long scenario, Ellison huddled his staff together and came up with a game plan.

They knew they had their work cut out for them.

The stadium was buried under 17 inches of snow. Some drifts were 4 to 5 feet high. “It really drifted in the upper deck,” he said. “You couldn’t see the benches it was so deep.”

Temporary hiring agencies provided some of the manpower needed to move the mountains of snow. The university also asked the public to pitch in and shovelers were paid $10 an hour.

“At one point, there were 500 people shoveling in a day,” Ellison said.

Removing all the snow from the bleachers and field was just one logistic in getting the stadium game-ready. The public restrooms had to be reopened; the field had to be covered with heaters and a tarp to melt away ice spots; and then there were the media accommodations.

“We have to get things ready for ESPN’s production team,” Ellison said. “They have 51 cameras for the game, plus a sky cam. It’s unbelievable the amount of technology they bring to the table.”

Ellison, like his nephew Cole did many times this season as the starting quarterback for the Alexandria Cardinals, rose up to the challenge and completed his assignment.

The field was ready Monday night.

All those involved in the effort to get the U stadium back in football shape were repeatedly praised during Monday night’s game.

The Vikings’ performance … well, that’s another story.

Edenloff writes for the Alexandria Echo Press