A year ago, demolition on the Metrodome was just finishing up. Now, with the help of more than 900 construction workers who’ve logged more than 1 million hours of work, a new football stadium is rising in Minneapolis’ Downtown East.
On Wednesday, those involved in building the massive structure celebrated the halfway mark.
Walking by the towering steel trusses and across the wide concrete concourses, Minnesota Vikings team officials and construction leaders marked the milestone for the more-than-$1 billion glass-and-steel stadium, showing off the clear-glass and black-zinc panels that have already started to cover the building’s exterior as the bowl of the stadium takes shape.
“Today we have a chance to celebrate,” said Mark Wilf, Vikings owner and team president. “This stadium will truly be a landmark for civic pride.”
Despite controversy over the stadium’s glass and some leadership concerns, Wednesday was all about the construction crews reaching the halfway mark. They’ve completed more than $400 million worth of work. But for the crews buzzing around the building, welding and working away, there was no halftime show for the occasion.
Instead, they are working almost around the clock to finish just over 15 months of work to make the construction deadline of July 29, 2016.
Starting this summer, seats will be put in. In May, more of the black metal panels will be installed, covering the brown installation along the facade. Eight temporary towering green trusses will be removed, and the sprawling ridge truss stretching some 970 feet across the stadium will be fully connected in June. Steel work will be done by September. And by November, the stadium will be fully enclosed, with a roof and glass panels.
That glass, which is already starting to be installed on the east side, has drawn protests from bird advocates, who argue that it’s deadly to birds, especially because the building is near the Mississippi River’s migratory pathway. 3M is testing a bird-safe film, with a trial of it expected this summer.
No stadium ‘like this’
If there’s any doubt about the stadium’s colossal size — it will be nearly double the size of the Metrodome — a tour of the main concourses show that they will be two to three times wider than the Dome’s.
Walls are starting to be framed out for the concourse concessions and bathrooms. On the north side, 54 rows of retractable seats will allow for baseball games. And glass along the upper perimeter will make it seem like the roof is floating when it’s lit up, said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the public body monitoring the stadium’s construction.
“This is about Minnesota jobs and Minnesota companies,” she said, adding that more than 90 percent of the work is being done by more than 200 Minnesota-based companies. “There is not another stadium like this in the country; there will not be another stadium like this in the world.”
Tackling a snowstorm
But as a Minnesota stadium, it faces another challenge: a good old-fashioned Minnesota snowstorm. Heavy snow in 2010 caused the Metrodome roof to collapse. However, officials offered assurances Wednesday that there won’t be a repeat of that with the new stadium.
Unlike the Dome’s Teflon fabric roof, the new stadium will have steel supports and a sophisticated system around the perimeter of the building that will collect snow when it slides down the roof to a gutter, where a heating system will melt it and cycle it into stormwater drains.
“We can hold snowboarding contests up there,” construction manager Dave Mansell joked.
M.A. Mortenson Co. and the authority also showed off a 4-D computer model Wednesday that illustrates the project progressing piece by piece, plotting some 20,000 movements. Leaders said 40 percent of construction workers are minorities, women and veterans.
The new stadium is even a recruiting tool for new players, Wilf said.
“All Minnesotans and Vikings fans will be super proud of [it],” he said.
But the biggest point of pride would be achieving Wilf’s second goal after building a stadium: winning a Super Bowl.