Abandoning the Metrodome

Perhaps you missed this news item in the chaos of Sunday's 48-hour postponement of the Minnesota Vikings' game at the Philadelphia Eagles. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, roof damage at the Metrodome could compel the Vikings to play the 2011 season at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

Here is the key portion of Mortensen's news story:

Sources say the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission is assessing the viability of playing the 2011 season outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota, the stadium that hosted the Vikings' game against the Chicago Bears when the Metrodome roof was damaged by heavy snow.

The commission will deliver its findings to the Vikings in late January or early February. After reviewing the findings, [owner Zygi] Wilf will make a decision in consultation with the NFL on whether to play the 2011 season at the Metrodome or TCF Bank Stadium, according to team and league sources.

There are a few things to keep in mind about this situation. Among them:

  1. The Vikings have been fighting for public financing to build a Metrodome replacement for 10 years. We saw the initial rollout of their 2011 strategy earlier this month, when the team's chief stadium lobbyist questioned the safety of the Metrodome moving forward. And now we see the next step: Using the roof collapse as an avenue for getting out of the building permanently.

  2. The key question is whether the roof can be repaired or if an entirely new one must be installed. If it's the latter, cost estimates range from $12 million to $15 million. Even if it's covered by insurance, that's a high price to pay for a 28-year-old building whose lifespan is nearing its end.

  3. Negotiations for a joint-use stadium between the Vikings and the university broke off in 2001 and were never revived. Among the reasons was that school officials didn't want 10 NFL games on campus every year. Traffic, alcohol sales and tailgating were all relevant issues. Wilf might want to play at TCF Bank Stadium, but there is no guarantee the school would honor that request, especially if there weren't a hard timetable for moving into a new, permanent NFL stadium.

  4. Even if the move was temporary, significant adjustments would have to be made to the stadium. As we saw Dec. 20, the field is not designed for December football in Minnesota. Heating coils would have to be installed underneath. Also, the Vikings would need to address a dropoff in at least 8,000 tickets available per game. Capacity for last Monday night's game was advertised at 54,000, including standing room. The Vikings have sold at least 62,000 seats for every game at the Metrodome since 1998.

  5. This point bears repeating: The Vikings have built their team to play indoors for almost 30 years. As a result, their performance in cold weather has been abysmal for a long time. Playing outside sounds nice, but the Vikings would have to retrofit their roster and mindset to make it work.