As acting general manager at U.S. Bank Stadium, John Drum has spent the past eight months outside the uniquely giant building that houses his office.
Now that he's been officially named the stadium's general manager by ASM Global, he expressed optimism about getting back inside in 2021 and bringing along 67,000 fans to Minnesota Vikings games and hosting Gophers baseball and summer mega concerts.
"That's what we live for," Drum said Tuesday. "The good part is, I truly believe we're on the upswing now and events are coming back and we'll be prepared."
It hasn't been much fun at U.S. Bank Stadium since March, when officials were poised for a wild ride as the first stadium to host the NCAA men's wrestling championships. Then the tournament was abruptly canceled because of the pandemic, followed by cancellations of shows by the Rolling Stones, Kenny Chesney and Def Leppard. Vikings fans haven't been in the building all season.
ASM, headquartered in Los Angeles, handles the stadium's bookings and daily operations, directly overseeing its cleaning and contracting with security vendors. It shares oversight of Aramark concessions with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) and pays the state a fixed amount to manage the building.
As ASM's point man, the 49-year-old Drum will be pivotal in the reopening of U.S. Bank Stadium and ensuring the safety of visitors. He's got decades of event and venue experience to draw on.
After growing up in the north Philadelphia suburbs, Drum started down the path to the top job at U.S. Bank Stadium watching a club hockey game at Ohio University, where he was an undergraduate studying meteorology. He enjoyed the energy of the crowd at the ice arena and the fun diversion of the games, and volunteered to help with operations, selling programs, carrying equipment, coordinating road trip logistics — whatever needed to be done.
"It ended up opening a lot of doors for me," he said.
Drum finished with an undergraduate degree in meteorology with an eye on broadcasting, but went on to get a master's degree in sports administration and facilities management.
While in grad school, he landed an internship with the California Angels and was hired in 1996 to run operations at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, where he said he enjoyed working and learning alongside people who brought the building to life — including employees who had been there 30 years and would show up an hour early to chat and prepare to welcome fans. He stayed in the job for nine years.
"It was easy to fall in love with it," Drum said, adding that U.S. Bank Stadium also has a core group of employees who have been there from the beginning.
"Working at a sports stadium, it's there for people to come and have a great time," he said. "It's a lot of long hours, but at the end of the day it should be fun."
From California, Drum moved to Arizona to run event operations at Cardinals Stadium (now State Farm Stadium) before coming to Minneapolis with ASM.
Partners have praised him, including MSFA Chairman Michael Vekich, who said that during Drum's tenure U.S. Bank has "excelled in the international spotlight for outstanding efforts in daily operations and world-class events." Vikings COO Andrew Miller said Drum's promotion was "well-deserved."
Drum may be taking over during a pandemic, but he wasn't downbeat about coming out of it. "We always want to stay positive. It's been a tough year," he said.
In addition to his enjoyment of hockey, Drum has other Minnesota bona fides. He and his wife, Mandi, a native of Fisher, Minn., got married in East Grand Forks, Minn. His sons J.T., 15, and Wyatt, 9, play hockey and his daughter, Zoe, 12, figure skates. The family lives in Woodbury.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747