After months of getting rained on, pounded with packed snow and flattened by heavy equipment used to fix the roof, the Metrodome's artificial turf may have to be replaced before the Vikings resume play there in August, Dome officials said Friday.
Based on preliminary tests, officials believe the turf can be made playable again. If not, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission this week authorized a bidding process to ensure that new turf, costing up to $800,000, would be ready by mid-August, in time for the Vikings' preseason games.
"We believe the turf will be fine," said commission chair Ted Mondale. "However, with the amount of rain that's come in and with the boards on top of it, there may be parts of the turf or all of it that needs to be replaced."
The plan approved by the commission would have the new turf installed by Aug. 18, in time for the Vikings' game against Dallas on Aug. 27.
The Dome's current turf was installed last summer, and under ordinary circumstances would have been good for years to come. Manufactured by Sportexe of Calhoun, Ga., it contains sand and rubberized pellets for better cushioning and feel.
But the Dome's last few months have been anything but ordinary. Its 29-year-old fiberglass roof was ripped open in a December blizzard, forcing the team to find new digs for the rest of the 2010 season.
The damage was so extensive that the commission decided in February to replace the entire roof. The $22.7 million price tag is covered by insurance.
Bill Lester, the stadium commission's executive director, said that they're looking into whether insurance also would pay for new turf, estimated to cost $600,000 to $800,000.
Work on the new roof began in March, making the Dome a construction site and sinking the playing surface below three layers of plywood rolled over by tractors and heavy booms.
Lester said preliminary tests by Sportexe inspectors show that the turf needs reconditioning. That will happen in early August, after the new Dome roof is finished and inflated.
Officials then will decide whether the turf is so compacted that it needs to be switched out for a new carpet, he said.
Meanwhile, work continues on track to finish and raise the Dome roof by Aug. 1. About 80 percent of the surface is complete, but work crews still have several large and tricky triangular fabric panels to install.
About nine work days have been lost to wet and windy weather, Lester said. But work didn't stop June 7, when a new record of 103 degrees was set and the thermometer on the Dome roof registered 120 degrees. Their only concession to the heat: they knocked off after 8 hours rather than their standard 10.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455