As we await what are likely the final steps in approving the Minnesota Vikings' new downtown stadium, let's take an early look at some of the questions that will remain after Gov. Mark Dayton presumably signs the bill:
What about the Minneapolis City Council?
Yes, it's true that the majority of the council's 13 members must approve the final bill before construction could begin. But that has been considered a formality since March, when Mayor R.T. Rybak announced that seven members had pledged support. Thursday morning, Rybak told Minnesota Public Radio that the bill contained "every single one of the things we asked for" and added: "I don't anticipate there will be a change [of heart]."
What will the new stadium look like?
The frantic pace of this legislation produced very few details on the design and features of the facility. There have been general terms that include 65,000 seats and 150 luxury boxes, but those are general estimates. The team released three images last month, one of which is reproduced in this post. But those are only concepts and a significant amount of architectural, engineering and design work remains to be done.
Where will the Vikings play during construction?
The team has said it will play in the Metrodome in 2012 and has expressed hope that it will be able to spend at least a portion of the three following years there as well before the new facility opens in 2016. But that timetable is subject to the unfinished work we just discussed. The expectation is that there will be at least one season, and probably a portion of a second, played at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Field. That will require a multi-million upgrade at "The Bank" to include, among other things, heating coils for the outdoor field.
What about a retractable roof?
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has expressed strong interest in playing outdoor games when possible, and a retractable roof would probably help lure an MLS team to the facility as well. The $975 million bill, however, calls for a fixed roof. Legislators said the Vikings would have to cover the additional costs and maintenance of a retractable roof. At one point last year, team officials projected a $25 million difference between a retractable roof and a fixed one. That might be a low estimate, however; the Indianapolis Colts' retractable roof at Lucas Oil Field was estimated to add $75 million to the project. I don't have an updated figure for the Vikings' stadium, but I wouldn't be surprised if Wilf at least considers the upgrade.