MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — March Madness is just around the corner, but Minneapolis is already gearing up for next year’s NCAA Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Between now and then, the stadium will need an expensive upgrade: Blackout curtains to cover up all of the natural light coming through the windows and roof.
U.S. Bank Stadium is why Minneapolis won the bid to host the 2019 Final Four. And the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which owns the stadium, put out a request for bids of its own two days after the Super Bowl for contractors to design, manufacture and install massive blackout curtains to cover the stadium’s expansive windows and roof.
So why is this necessary? Well, the NCAA requires that the lighting be consistent for all four teams, for practices and games, regardless of the time of day.
MSFA Chairman Mike Vekich said he would not say how much it will cost, beyond saying it will be expensive.
“The discussion of the cost is an area we won’t be specific on. We’re right in the competitive bid process, and for us to reveal what we might believe it’s going to cost based on our own investigation would be a business decision that one would not want to make,” Vekich said. “We have our own estimates, but to do that would undermine the competitive nature of the bid process.”
But he did say the MSFA will be paying for it out of money set aside for building improvements.
“There has been no discussion about approaching the legislature,” Vekich said.
The plan is to keep them in place — albeit retractable — for use for other events, like concerts.
Vekich said the MSFA was aware of the NCAA’s requirement when it made its bid for the event, and knew it would be part of the cost of hosting.
Other facilities that have hosted the Final Four have had to do the same thing. In Houston and Phoenix, both venues had windows that had to be covered.
The glass and natural light are perhaps the stadium’s signature feature, so the idea that it all has to be covered up is not ideal. Nevertheless, it is part of the game.
“Any time that you can have this wonderful sun shining in here is something that you would want to have,” Vekich said. “But as you understand, we’re a facility that works with different requirements.”
Patrick Talty is general manager of SMG, which operates the stadium. He said this is all about accommodation.
“We transform ourselves many different times to accommodate the event, and this just happens to be another event that we’ll transform ourselves to accommodate,” Talty said.
To cover up 200,000 square feet of glass windows, not to mention the roof, which is 60-percent see-through.
Proposals from bidders are due by April 3. The MSFA will choose a contractor by April 20, and the project is required to be completed by March 14, 2019 — though the MSFA anticipates it will be done by the end of January.