Sources: Vikings could play outside

Minnesota officials are studying whether TCF Bank Stadium could see a full season of Vikings football. Brace Hemmelgarn/US Presswire

Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has publicly campaigned for an open-air stadium to replace the Metrodome. He just might get a full-season shakedown cruise at the stadium that hosted the Vikings last Monday night.

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, 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.

Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, told the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis later on Sunday that his group is only assessing damage to the Metrodome and not assessing whether the team should play outdoors next season.

"There has been zero discussion of playing the 2011 season outside and zero discussion of not having the stadium ready for the 2011 season," he told the newspaper.

ESPN, however, stands by its reporting on this story.

The Monday night game was the Vikings' first outdoor home game since moving into the Metrodome for the 1982 season.

Last week, Lester said it's still not clear how long total repairs would take, including whether they would involve replacing damaged pieces of the roof, or replacing it entirely, and how much the repairs would cost. But he also said the stadium would be ready for the 2011 season.

Three panels of the Metrodome's Teflon roof failed Dec. 12 under the load of about 17 inches of snow that fell in a major winter storm, and a fourth ripped a few days later. Engineers subsequently used a shotgun to blow out a fifth panel that was under stress from a load of ice.

Eight or nine panels may be candidates for replacement, Lester said.
The engineering team working on the repairs hoped to be able to determine whether repairs to individual damaged panels would be enough to make the dome whole again, or if an entirely new roof would be needed -- likely at a far higher price tag.

The Vikings previously played their home games at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, now the site of the Mall of America. The harsh elements were part of the team's home-field advantage as it went to four Super Bowls in the 1970s.

Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.