The company that designed retractable roofs, walls and windows in two of the NFL's newest stadiums will face the same challenge in downtown Minneapolis after winning the bid to draw up plans for the Minnesota Vikings' next home.
HKS Inc., a Dallas-based architectural and engineering firm that recently designed stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts, has been hired by the Vikings and the public board overseeing construction of the $975 million stadium, scheduled to open in 2016.
"A few years from now, when we walk in there, it's going to be an absolutely incredible experience that will change people's lives in this state, " HKS principal Mark Williams told the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority at its meeting on Friday.
The architectural hire is the first major contract -- HKS will be paid $34 million -- of many still to come in the construction of the stadium. Up next is the hiring of a construction management firm, which officials hope to announce by November or December, said Michele Kelm-Helgen, the authority chairwoman.
HKS, working with the Vikings and the authority, plans to solicit public input on the stadium's design in coming weeks through a series of meetings across the state. The firm hopes to capture a vision that will help it deliver a detailed rendering of the stadium by early next year.
The first of the meetings is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Minneapolis.
"Taking this conversation out in the communities is an important piece," Kelm-Helgen said. "This is a statewide asset. Everybody's interested in how this is going to look."
Bids within range
HKS was one of five architectural and engineering firms from across the country to bid on the Vikings job. All had extensive experience designing sports arenas and stadiums. Bids ranged from a low of $32 million to a high of $54 million, in line with the anticipated $30 million to $50 million range.
"I do believe we did get the best firm at the best price," Kelm-Helgen said.
Lester Bagley, spokesman for the Vikings, said HKS was the most creative of a strong field of bidders and will design "a world-class facility."
One of HKS' formidable early challenges will be determining whether a retractable roof, wall or window can be built into the stadium.
The stadium-financing legislation approved this spring calls for a fixed roof, but the Vikings have said they would like to add a retractable feature. Whether it can be built within the $975 million budget won't be known until a construction manager is hired and all construction costs determined.
Adding a fully retractable roof to a stadium designed for a fixed roof could add another $25 million to $50 million to the cost, according to several experts familiar with retractable designs. Bart Riberich, president of Uni-Systems, a Robbinsdale company that has worked with retractable features in NFL stadiums, said adding a retractable wall or window would probably cost less.
But an exact price could vary greatly, depending on how much of the structure would be movable.
"We have to have it priced," Bagley said.
"We have to know, 'How much does it cost to open the window or the roof or the wall?' But our goal is to have a retractable feature."
Kelm-Helgen said the team and the authority are "on the same" page on the issue, but said it won't be built at the expense of "what's inside the stadium." She added that the construction budget will not be increased.
"From the Vikings' perspective and from the stadium authority's perspective, you just have to live within that budget," she said.
Williams said that he is confident HKS can deliver.
"Our goal is to do all of it and all of it within budget," he said.
Familiar with city
Team and authority officials said HKS' experience designing retractable features was an attractive selling point.
The Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, home to the Colts, has long been viewed by the Vikings as a model NFL venue for a downtown neighborhood. It features a retractable roof as well as a giant movable window wall that opens to the skyline.
HKS' Bryan Trubey said the stadium reflects a "traditional" look, while the Cowboys Stadium is more "edgy."
"They are two completely different projects," he said.
HKS submitted several conceptual renderings for the Vikings stadium, but none are considered blueprints for future construction.
HKS is no stranger to the Metrodome site. In 2009, it was part of a team that included Mortenson Construction, a Minneapolis-based company that served as construction manager for the Twins' Target Field, that worked on future development plans for the Metrodome site.
"They are familiar with the site, the city and the Vikings," said Chuck Lutz, Minneapolis' deputy development director.
Williams said HKS' work in Dallas and Indianapolis "changed the way people looked at NFL stadiums. And we're going to one-up that here."