SBD/December 15, 2010/Facilities

Univ. Of Minnesota Officials Race To Prepare Stadium For Vikings

Vikings Working On Accommodating 63,000 Ticketholders At 50,000-Seat TCF Bank Stadium

Univ. of Minnesota officials are racing to prepare TCF Bank Stadium for Monday's Bears-Vikings game "after Metrodome officials told the exiled Vikings late Tuesday they cannot repair the collapsed roof in time," according to Brian Murphy of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. UM News Service Dir Daniel Wolter: "We'll make every reasonable effort to ensure the Vikings and their fans have a great venue for their Monday night football game." The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which operates the Metrodome, said that engineers with the roof's manufacturer and installer, Birdair Inc., "concluded the damage caused by last weekend's snowstorm was worse than expected and workers could not make the venue playable for the Vikings' home finale." Murphy notes the Vikings "desperately want to play their last game of a disappointing 2010 season in their hometown." But "readying 50,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium, a college venue with 13,000 fewer seats than the Metrodome and unlicensed to sell alcohol, poses significant challenges that the Vikings and university will try to resolve." The biggest hurdle is "removing tons of snow from the field and seating areas." UM Associate AD for Facilities & Event Management Scott Ellison said that the Vikings "would foot the bill for preparing the stadium." He added that UM "budgets $250,000 to put on a game, but it could cost as much as $700,000 to remove all the snow and reboot operations in less than [a] week." Ellison said that the school is "looking into ways to shield open-air concession areas from the harsh conditions to prevent pipes from bursting." Also, "still to be determined is how to fit more than 63,000 ticketholders into a stadium that holds 50,000 people." Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said that "temporary seating is one option to shrink that disparity, but a priority system had not been finalized" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/15).

COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: Bagley said that Vikings and NFL officials told UM on Monday night that they "wanted TCF Bank Stadium ready and available for the Bears game if the shredded Metrodome roof could not be repaired in time." After engineers and workers "surveyed a Metrodome roof with a hole the size of a house," MSFC Exec Chair Bill Lester said that "fixing the hole ... by Monday seemed an impossibility." UM agreed to host the game yesterday and "began the process of hiring 400 workers to prepare a site that Ellison said had been 'winterized.'" In Minneapolis, Paul Levy notes alcohol is "not sold at TCF Bank Stadium during Gophers games," and Bagley said that is "one of a myriad of issues on the table." Ellison predicted that "next week's final exams will keep many students away from campus, opening up parking spots." But he added that the snow, "which will be trucked from the stadium to the St. Paul campus, remains the school's greatest concern." Also, it was "not immediately known whether the Vikings might need a special environmental permit to play a weeknight game at a stadium used almost exclusively on Saturdays." Bagley said that the Vikings were told they would be "assisted by NFL experts accustomed to planning 'special events like the Super Bowl'" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/15).

ADDING FUEL TO THE FIRE: An AUSTIN DAILY HERALD editorial stated, "It was bad enough that the Metrodome roof's collapse on a snowy Sunday morning forced the Vikings to move what was to have been a home game to Detroit. It's even worse that the collapse may provide fuel to those who want to use tax money to build a new football stadium." The editorial: "Enthusiasm for a new stadium shouldn't be allowed to cross into the public domain, where Minnesota faces so many financial challenges ... that if any extra public money can be scraped up, it needs to either reduce taxes or support essential services" (AUSTINDAILYHERALD.com, 12/14). St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Jeremy Fowler said of the Vikings getting a new stadium, “People knew that the Metrodome was obsolete. This just punctuates that point. However, it's still all about funding and whether the state wants to help front the bill. That's still yet to be determined.” Fowler: “This is pretty bad. This gives the Owner Zygi Wilf plenty of leverage. Maybe behind the scenes he was dancing a little bit Sunday morning when he saw the Metrodome collapse and no one was hurt because this is the ultimate leverage" ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 12/14).

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