Phone calls — and lots of them — from nostalgic sports fans who have ordered more than 10,000 Metrodome seats are swamping the staff of a Fridley business that is removing and selling the chairs.
Tuesday was the last day to place orders, and callers have been flooding the lines wanting to make sure their requests went through.
“We were getting so many voice mails that we couldn’t keep up with them, so we shut down monitoring the message box,” Shane Boskovich, senior project manager for Albrecht Signs, said Monday.
Employees continued to answer calls as they could so they could communicate directly, he said. “Playing phone tag with 60,000 or whatever number [of people placing orders], it’s tough.”
On Tuesday morning, a steady stream of pickups and cars coasted down the loading dock tunnel, through steel gates and onto the floor of the 60,000-seat Dome so fans could collect their 35-pound keepsakes.
Self-described “massive sports fan” Mark McKinnon was one of dozens who showed up, getting the 10 seats he’d ordered for his basement, his garage and his brother.
“Some of my earliest memories are of watching the Twins in the World Series championship and the 1988 Vikings playoff game against the Rams with my family,” said McKinnon, 37, of Vadnais Heights, standing near his truck. “I saw the first basketball game with the Timberwolves here. It’s a little bit of Americana.”
Workers in orange hard hats unbolted the blue plastic and iron chairs in the lower decks, carried them to the floor, near rolls of worn artificial turf, and placed them in the waiting vehicles.
Chris Hammer, 40, drove 180 miles from Henning, Minn., to pick up a few seats.
“I grew up watching games here with my dad, and my kids came here with me to see the Twins, Gophers and Vikings,” he said. “It’s the only stadium they’ve ever been in.”
$40 to $80 a seat
Albrecht Signs won the contract with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority to remove and sell the 35-pound chairs. Tom Albrecht estimated his company had sold more than 10,000 seats and was still processing many orders on Tuesday. Pickup will continue weekdays through Jan. 15.
Most fans buy two or three seats, at $60 each, although some order a specific one for $80, Boskovich said. Buyers also can pay $20 for a plasticized certificate documenting that their purchase came from the 31-year-old Dome.
Nonprofits and community organizations pay $40 per seat, and some groups have ordered 300 to 600, Albrecht said. Amateur sports teams in cities such as Woodbury, Foley, Webster and Chisholm are buying seats for their home fields, he said.
Some people want the seat they occupied on a special occasion. “They proposed at the Dome or had a special event and wanted their specific seats to remember it,” Boskovich said.
Albrecht was chosen over three other bidders primarily because it offered a low price to nonprofit and community groups that wanted the chairs, often for local sports facilities, Sports Facilities Authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said. The Fridley company also uses union workers and met employee diversity requirements.
“We wanted to reuse as many seats as possible, especially for schools and ball clubs and community organizations that wanted seats,” Kelm-Helgen said. She said about a fifth of slightly more than 10,000 chairs sold so far are headed to such destinations, the rest to individual fans.
Albrecht is paid nothing for removing seats but receives sales revenues less a fee to the Sports Facilities Authority: $10 on a $60 chair and $15 on $80 chairs. The authority receives nothing on chairs sold to nonprofits.
Salable seats must be removed by Jan. 18, when the lights go off and the roof drops, intentionally this time, at the Dome. The Vikings’ new $1 billion stadium is slated to open at the same site in the summer of 2016.
Orders have come from far and wide, including a military serviceman in Japan, Albrecht said. He also has taken orders from Florida, California and Pennsylvania.
Roger Chladek, 62, drove from Farmington to claim six seats. Three will go to the basement room where he watches the Vikings and three to a brother-in-law’s family in Washington, D.C.
“It’s a little piece of history,” he said. “It’s remembrances of the Vikings, even though they haven’t been a winner for a long time.”
As for the games McKinnon remembers, the records show that the Vikings beat the Rams, the Wolves lost to the Bulls and Michael Jordan, and the Twins had to have won: They never lost in eight World Series games at the Dome.