MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — At Target Field or the Xcel Energy Center, Jim Cunningham is always in on the action.
He’s been with the Wild since they began and the Twins even longer — 18 years — as a Game Host, entertaining fans and leading contest giveaways. The first 13 of those years were spent in the Metrodome.
So when the roof collapsed in 2010, Cunningham’s reaction was more visceral than most.
“Holy crap!” he recalls thinking, with a laugh. It wasn’t ’til later that the wheels started turning.
“It just hit me,” he said, “you know what would be great? A swatch of the Dome. I betcha everybody would want a swatch of the Dome.”
So when the Dome held a public sale in April of 2011, Cunningham bought as much as he could — which amounted to an acre and a half of the inner fabric of the roof and an acre and a half of the outer fabric too. Two semis full. Almost one-sixth of the whole thing.
“It was a business proposition, yeah,” he said. “Investment is a strong word, but business proposition, yeah. But beyond that, I’m a fan of the Minnesota Twins.”
So yes, when the Metrodome roof came crashing down, Cunningham — the guy always in on the action — bought a bunch of it. For about $3,600, he said.
But what to do with it all?
North 153 miles from the Metrodome, Matt Bujold is paying careful attention to the corners. They’re the hardest part.
“This is a Teflon-based, fiberglass-woven fabric,” said Duluth Pack president Tom Sega. “And so this is as strong as it comes.”
So strong it dulls the blade. But when Duluth Pack was offered the chance to make bags out of Cunningham’s Metrodome roof, they figured it was worth it.
“It’s a well-known piece of history from the Dome,” Sega said, “and want to do something special with it.”
Bujold’s cutting is the first step. Duluth Pack saves every scrap.
Then they go upstairs to Carol Evenson. It takes a couple hours to sew together each bag.
“It’s different,” she said. “Nice to sew on though.”
And it never ceases to amaze her that, yes, she’s doing what she’s doing.
“Seems weird,” she said, with a laugh.
Chad Oestreich is a riveter. But years ago as a rec league third baseman, he lost a pop-up in the roof.
“The ball goes up,” he said, “and then all the sudden it’s gone.”
And now he’s making a bag out of the very same roof.
“Never in a million years did I think that would happen,” he said. “It’s kind of neat to work with this fabric too, because growing up a Twins fan, you always wonder, what’s the Dome made out of?”
They’ve got a new project lately.
When the famous right field baggy went on sale this past fall, well, Cunningham had to buy that, too.
“It seemed like a natural progression for us,” he said.
He paid about $3,000 for it, he said, but hasn’t figured out just what to do with it yet. Maybe grill covers or bat bags? They’re still brainstorming ideas, and he sent a small piece of it to Duluth Pack to start testing prototypes.
“We’re not going to stop until we figure out a very creative way to use this,” Sega said.
It’s amazing when you think about the history of this thing. All the little scratches and creases. And what might’ve caused them.
“People like Puckett or Hunter, jumping up and banging into that thing,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham isn’t the only guy whose done stuff like this, as anyone with an Internet connection can quickly confirm. But you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’s thought this far outside the box.
“Some of the bags have stains on them,” Sega said. “Some of the bags have seams right down the middle. And it just adds more character. To the point that we’ve had bags returned, and they would ask, ‘Can we have a dirtier bag? This one is not dirty enough. This one doesn’t have a seam in it.'”
Sometimes, when an order comes from outside Minnesota, they stop and guess the motivation behind it. Orders from Durham, N.C. and Washington, D.C. aren’t tough to figure out.
But there was one order they could almost barely believe.
“The Atlanta Braves were one of the very first customers,” Sega said.
The same Braves the Twins beat to win the 1991 World Series. In the Metrodome.
“Why?” Cunningham said, with a laugh. “You can’t win in that bag any more than you won in the Dome.”
But now — thanks to Cunningham — you can take the Dome with you. In all its Teflon-coated glory.
In a bag.
“Is it a good way to memorialize the Dome?” Cunningham asked, rhetorically. “It’s as good as any.”
If you’re interested in purchasing a Domer bag, check out Duluth Pack’s website.