By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From a small rip to a large roar, it came apart in just a matter of seconds. The Metrodome’s 29-year old fabric was no match for December’s heavy snow. Within days of the Dec. 11 blizzard, five Teflon-coated fiberglass panels were shredded, leaving gaping holes in the roof.

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Nearly two months after the disaster, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission heard the final engineer’s report. It recommends against doing a spot repair of the damaged panels and instead favors an entire roof replacement.

“We haven’t seen any support for a partial restoration of the roof,” said the commission’s engineer Steve Maki.

The engineering firm Walter P. Moore, hired by the commission, found that stresses on multiple fabric panels following the dome’s collapse are more severe than earlier thought. Those panels suffered abrasions and wear from exposure to the wind, ice, snow and moisture. Their professional assessment finds the panels would present a safety risk of future tears.

Replacing the entire fabric and cable structure won’t be inexpensive, estimated to cost $18.3 million. Because the Minnesota Vikings will begin preseason play sometime in mid-August, the replacement work will have to be completed by Aug. 1.

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Chairman Ted Mondale said the bid will be rewarded based on that firm timeframe.

“It’s our intent, and I believe it’s realistic, that the work will be done in time for the Vikings to play here this season,” Mondale explained.

While the Vikings will be playing out the final year of the team’s Metrodome lease, there is the question of replacing a roof on a stadium that could eventually come down. But Mondale made it clear that the facility carries insurance for a reason and the policy will pay for all costs. In addition, Mondale says other events use the facility and there is no guarantee that a Viking’s stadium bill will pass the legislature this session.

“Because of all the other events this building serves it’s very important that we have it back up,” added Mondale.

Bids will be awarded on Feb. 25, the next time the commission meets. The expected demolition of the existing roof could begin sometime mid-March, allowing construction of the new fabric roof to begin by April 1.

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