Each day, for the past three months, a series of big trucks have continuously lumbered onto the construction site that once was the home to the Metrodome. As they leave, they cart pieces of the Dome with them, making room for the glitzy new $1 billion Vikings stadium.
Most of the Metrodome is gone now. But more than 80 percent of the 32-year old structure will be recycled in one fashion or another. That includes the concrete that once served as its foundation and support, the steel that reinforced it, the Teflon fabric roof, the soil beneath and around it, the bright-blue seats and field turf within it — even a few urinals were sold off, and (presumably) given new life in somebody’s bathroom, business or man cave.
“Construction projects create a massive amount of waste,” said John Wood, senior vice president for stadium builder Mortenson Construction. “We go to serious lengths to make sure the amount of material that is recycled is maximized.”
Otherwise, the materials would have been hauled off to a landfill, an expensive and wasteful proposition.
The process of disassembling the Dome and constructing the underpinnings of the new stadium have progressed like an industrial ballet on the east side of Minneapolis’ downtown over the past five months. Much of the waste, particularly steel and concrete, was meticulously sorted on site before being transported elsewhere for further processing.
Some of the concrete and soil will be used in road projects. The steel will be remelted at some point and crafted into rebar or sheets used for new construction or consumer products, such as appliances or car parts. The fabric roof may be used as construction tarps at some point. But one thing’s for sure — repurposed steel from the Dome won’t end up in the new stadium, since the steel for the new structure has already been ordered.
“I’m sure for a lot of Vikings fans, the [Dome demolition] is bittersweet,” said Scott Spisak, business development manager for Frattalone Cos. Inc., the Little Canada company leading the demo project. “Some of us are old enough to remember when it was built.”
Unlike some construction projects, the Metrodome wasn’t blown up in a spectacular way, but methodically taken down piece by piece. A big step occurred on Jan. 18, when the Dome’s fabric roof was deflated in just 35 minutes.
Once the fabric sunk to the ground, crews began to cut it into squares that could be later used as construction tarp, Spisak said. (When the roof collapsed following heavy snowfall in 2010, some of its remains were made into purses by Duluth Pack, but no such plans appear in the offering with the second wave of Teflon-coated fiberglass.)
Then, after a ring beam unexpectedly fell out of sequence in February, 84 charges of dynamite were used to bring down the rest of the Dome’s upper ring on a Sunday morning. Despite that unplanned maneuver, officials say the new stadium’s aggressive timeline is still on course — the new facility will open in the summer of 2016.
The Dome’s utilitarian design — it was constructed largely of concrete — is well suited for a recycling project of this magnitude, Wood said. “As compared to other building types, the Metrodome really lent itself to maximum reuse,” he added.
Officials from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the public body overseeing construction of the new stadium, say about 80,000 tons of concrete will be recycled from the Dome. Much of it was chopped up into 2-foot by 2-foot pieces (or smaller) before being trucked from the job site, Spisak said.
The concrete is taken to sites in Little Canada and South St. Paul and crushed into pieces measuring an inch or smaller that will be used as road base aggregate. Spisak guesses the material could be used for Minnesota Department of Transportation projects throughout the metro area. However, some of it will revert to the stadium site for use as a stable work surface for equipment, Wood said.
540,000 down, 310,000 to go
Likewise, crews have removed 540,000 cubic yards of soil from the site, with about 310,000 cubic yards to go, Wood said. Soil will also be used for road projects, but some of it is being stored on an adjacent lot owned by Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. The soil has undergone extensive environmental testing, and it will revert to the construction site when needed, Wood said.
Roughly 5,000 tons of steel and other metals will be recycled from the site, according to Shane Alsdurf of AMG Alliance, a Minneapolis firm handling that recycling effort. “Once it hits the ground [at the construction site], they want it out,” he said. AMG has hauled hundreds of truckloads of scrap from the site in the past two months.
Alsdurf is the affable yard buyer for AMG, which uses its site off the Mississippi River in St. Paul to further sort the steel and metal extracted from the Dome. The property is home to a series of scrap piles, some 60 feet high, that have been sorted depending on type. A giant magnet ferrets out ferrous and nonferrous metals, and then heavy equipment further shears it and engages in a process called “munching” which breaks it down even more.
It’s a surprisingly delicate process. Once sufficiently processed, the scrap is loaded onto a barge, truckbed or rail car and shipped off, the per-pound price of which is determined by ever-changing commodities markets.