A year ago, CJ Fischer, of Rochester, started making plans to take his dad to the Vikings-Packers game at brand new U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
"I bought season tickets last year, mainly because of the new stadium," Fischer said. "My main reason was to bring my dad to the Packers game."
Fischer carefully guarded his plan so he could surprise his dad, John Fischer, at just the right time.
"My dad had been to the last Vikings game at Met Stadium, and I brought him to the last game at the Metrodome," Fischer said. "I thought I'd bring him to the first game at the new stadium."
Then, during a hunting trip last November, John Fischer died.
"I was keeping the secret from him, and I never got to tell him," CJ Fischer said.
So there was sadness mixed with the excitement Sunday evening as Fischer took his seat in the upper tier of the new stadium, ready to watch the Vikings battle the Packers in the first regular-season game at the field.
Next to him, in place of his father, sat John Majerus, a nephew, who plays football at Byron High School.
"My dad went to all of his games, so I felt it was kind of right for him to take my dad's place," Fischer said. "To go to a Green Bay game, that's the pinnacle if you live in Minnesota."
Looking around the stadium, Fischer said, "I feel like they did a lovely job with it."
"It's amazing, really beautiful," Majerus said of the stadium.
Asked what his dad would think of the place, Fischer said, "He was a true Minnesotan, and to see all the things they put here about the heritage of Minnesota, he would be proud."
Elsewhere, around the stadium, a group of 50 fans associated with Winona State University-Rochester, were high in the upper tier. "We're about 50-50 Vikings-Packers fans," said James McGee, of Rochester. "The stadium is absolutely incredible."
Also in the Winona State group was Nicolas Kempen, a native of Madison, Wis., and a Packers fan, dressed in green and gold. "I feel pretty brave," he said. "We can handle it. Most of the Vikings fans have have been pretty nice."
Asked for his impressions of the stadium, Kempen said, "It's no Lambeau Field, but it's really nice."
And, as usual, there were other Packers fans in the stadium, including the Rev. Paul Brushaber, of Rochester's Christ Community Church, who was invited to share a suite with Rochester — and Vikings — friends. Brushaber chose to wear a muted green Packers T-shirt. "If the Packers win, I'll be doing little golf claps," he said. "If they lose, I'm sure I'll get razzed."
Nearby, Barry Karsjens, of Plainview, took in the view of the field. "It's very impressive," he said. "It's amazing what a billion dollars will do."