Metrodome Roof Collapse Rekindles Stadium Debate

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Frigid air whipped through a desolate Metrodome on Monday as crews began inspecting the Minnesota stadium’s nearly three decades-old roof after it collapsed under the weight of heavy snow that pounded the Twin Cities and forced the Vikings to move their game to Detroit.

Sunday’s roof collapse was the fourth since the 29-year-old facility opened, and it has rekindled the debate about whether the cash-strapped state should build a new venue using taxpayer money.

“It’s an aging facility. We all know that. This actually ramps up that part of the discussion,” said state Sen. Julie Rosen, who said she will introduce a new stadium bill when the Legislature convenes in January.

The Vikings have lobbied lawmakers for more than 10 years for a new stadium, arguing the Metrodome is outdated and doesn’t generate enough revenue. The team’s lease runs through the 2011 season and they have said they won’t renew it. The NFL team is the stadium’s only major tenant after the Minnesota Twins and University of Minnesota moved into new facilities, which received public subsidies, in the past two years.

The stadium’s Teflon roof gave way early Sunday after a storm pounded the region, dumping 17 inches of snow on the city — the fifth heaviest in state history. No was hurt, but the Vikings’ Sunday game was moved to Monday night in Detroit and it wasn’t clear when the stadium would reopen.

Three executives from Amherst, N.Y.-based contractor Birdair, Inc. met with stadium officials Monday. Pat Milan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission that operates the Metrodome, said they assessed the position and the size of the tears in the roof to figure out whether to repair or replace damaged panels.

“Everyone is going as quickly as they can and as safely as they can,” Milan said.

Vikings vice president for public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley said the team is “determined” to host the Chicago Bears next Monday night “in front of our fans.” He says they’ll likely take a “dual-track approach,” trying to get the Metrodome ready while also preparing TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus to play outside if necessary.

When the Metrodome was built, its design was considered state-of-the art — and its Teflon roof was less expensive than a solid one. Though some domes with similar designs still are used in Detroit, Vancouver and Syracuse, N.Y., new stadiums have been built over the years and the inflated-type domes have given way to shinier models.

The last time the Metrodome’s roof gave way was 27 years ago, forcing the postponement of a Minnesota Twins game in April 1983. Since then, building staff have learned a few tricks about dealing with snow storms — including blasting the roof with hot water to melt the snow and pumping hot air between two layers of fabric that make up the roof, said Steve Maki, MSFC director of facilities and engineering.

Those techniques were used during the weekend, but strong winds made it too dangerous for crews to continue working to clear the snow, he said.

The roof collapse dominated talk radio in the Twin Cities on Monday and striking video of a truckload of snow dumping on the field nearly 200 feet below was in heavy rotation on television.

“The images on TV can’t help but have an influence on public perception,” Rep. Keith Downey, a Republican from Edina who said he opposes both new taxes and state general fund spending for the Vikings.

But there may be little financial support for a new stadium — especially as Minnesota faces a budget deficit projected at $6.2 billion. State leaders have said there’s little they can do for the team until they solve the budget woes, though the Vikings are working on a new proposal to present to the next Legislature.

The Vikings previously pledged roughly one-third of the cost for a new stadium, estimated at $700 million or more depending on the model and the site, but they’ve had difficulty getting support for public money to pay for the rest.

Rosen, a Republican from Fairmont, wouldn’t give specifics about the bill she planned to propose next year, but she said no state funds would be used. Instead user fees and other revenue streams would pay for it, she said.

Gov.-elect Mark Dayton’s spokeswoman, Katie Tinucci, said the roof collapse hasn’t changed Dayton’s position on stadium legislation. His stance has been that the public benefits of a new stadium would have to outweigh the public cost, but he hasn’t spelled out details.

“We expected it to be an issue this session no matter what,” Tinucci said Monday, adding that the Democrat will look at stadium proposals after he takes office in three weeks.

Despite the hoopla, stadium critic Phil Krinkie of the Minnesota Taxpayers League said replacing the Metrodome because of storm damage makes about as much sense as replacing the New Orleans Superdome because it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. And because the last time the roof collapsed was in 1983, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the roof design, he said.

“If it doesn’t happen for the next 20 years, I think we still have an extended period of useful life of the facility,” Krinkie said.

Melissa Ferderer, 41, a Spanish teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools said Monday she opposed using taxpayer money for a new stadium for the Vikings.

“I just think that the public spending should go toward things that are good for the general public as opposed to a special section, and I feel there’s too much private profit made off that industry. I would like to see this place revamped,” she said of the dome.

But Jeffrey Evander, 32, a graphic designer from Bloomington, said keeping the Vikings was “crucial” and worth a tax increase.

“Part of a metropolis, a true city, is having your sports teams,” he said.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Paul Clerkin

    Actually the similar roof in Vancouver has been removed and replaced at a cost of over 200 million with a new retractable design

    • Leroy

      Fat chance that the Vikings will get a new stadium from Minnesota citizens. You want a new stadium, Ziggy, buy it yourself.

      • Leroy

        You know, Ziggy, for once in your life be a man and put your money where your mouth is. Pay for your own stadium.

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  • George

    Vikings: No quarterback, temporary coach and now no home….. Los Angeles Vikings in the making… Lakers was the first and Vikings the next….

    • Darci

      What is the deal with people you don’t want to help keep them here? What happened with the Lakers? There here one minute and gone the next!!! Is that what Minnesota really wants? We all need to think about that.

      • T

        Darci, I understand your opinion, but personally I can not afford to be taxed any more and if raising taxes to help pay for the Vikings stadium is what they plan, I can not support that.

        There are other things that are higher priority than a new stadium.

  • Dan H

    I dont remember all this paralysis by analysis going on for TCF, Target Field, Target Center, Xcel. Leaders get things done, sheep are paralyzed by the polls. Vikings could move, and all that tax revenue also. Keep that thinking up in other areas – and watch how many more schools will be starving for the fundamentals.

  • GOOB

    What happened with the roof sno-melt system?? I know that’s a lot of snow but this IS Minnesota.

  • Dave

    I wouldn’t mind if Wilf put in a couple hundred and the state put in a couple hundred… rip the dome off and install three stories of suites around the top and then widen the corridors below along with new restrooms and food islands and such. Updating the stadium would be a lot cheaper and we also wouldn’t loose out on the money already invested in and maintaining the building… plus we wouldn’t have the Mike Lynn contract anymore, so Wilf would rightfully make more money… The Chicago Bears recently did it… just a thought.

  • scc7107

    There’s a reason I now shop in Carver County even though I live in Hennepin

    Don’t want my tax money going to a billionaires private playground – which is why I firmly believe that Ziggy should pay for his own bloody stadium

    If the Vi-queens move? So what!

  • Jeffrey

    The team makes money for the state. What about spending money on the private sector? How many people will lose a job it this does not get done? People say spend it on something that matters……I say this tax revenue all accross the state every Sunday in restaurants, liquor stores and retail stores is a significant force for pro stadium legislation.

  • Football

    im not a Football fan. but I realize the dire implications of losing a professional football club from a metropolitan area. its amazing the amount of money that a stadium brings in to the state.

  • marypat27

    The Vikings need a new team, not a new stadium.

  • erik

    why can’t the roof be retro-fitted with a retractable or permanent roof? I don’t think the rest of the stadium is that bad. Nobody has the money to build a mega billion dollar stadium! I don’t think the taxpayers should foot the bill for any part of something so that owners and players can still make their millions.
    That teflon just aint doing it, and will only get worse as it ages and gets weathered.

  • getridofem

    they want an outdoor stadium–tear the fabric dome off, like someone said, build some executive box’s around the top, maybe some more seats if needed, remodel the dome as it sets now, leave the roof off and you have your open air stadium and brought up to date and for a whole lot less than a new one–and Zig can foot the bill on this by himself—–done.

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