Dome can't be fixed until spring

Festivals and teams are scrambling as officials said the roof won't be ready for months.

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The collapsed roof of the Metrodome is shown in this aerial view in Minneapolis on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010.

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

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The Metrodome will remain deflated and unusable at least through March, stranding the popular TwinsFest, dislocating shows and leaving several college and high school baseball teams scrambling to find other accommodations.

Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said on Wednesday that it's not yet clear when the Dome's ripped roof can be fixed but that it won't happen before spring.

Engineers are busy finding out how many of its 106 panels were irrevocably damaged in the Dec. 11 snowstorm, when snow and ice combined with high winds caused the Dome to deflate. At least nine torn fabric roof panels will need to be replaced, Lester said.

"There was not a set of circumstances that would have us in there before the end of March," he said. "First the scope of the project has to be determined, then the fabrication and shipping [of the roof panels]. And installation is time consuming, too."

For sports fans, the most noticeable effect of the collapse will be the change of venue for TwinsFest, which drew more than 32,000 fans to the Dome over three days in January.

The Minnesota Twins are investigating other locations for the Jan. 28-30 event but have not finalized plans. Because Target Field's indoor spaces are not big enough and other large sites aren't available, it likely will need to be scaled back.

"Some features, some of the interactive events, may go away, but the big thing is, the players will still be there and that's what everyone wants to see," Twins spokesman Kevin Smith said.

Other baseball teams are scrambling as well. More than 300 college and high school baseball games, many involving the University of Minnesota and other local teams, are in need of new venues.

Lester said he understands that canceling games at the Dome is "going to be a large inconvenience for them and throughout the Upper Midwest."

Other events are already feeling the pinch. The Hmong American New Year, scheduled for this weekend, failed to find a new site and had to cancel. Event organizers said they lost $35,000 loss in advertising and nonrefundable deposits, according to reports.

The Home & Landscape Expo, slated for two January weekends at the Dome, will be held Jan. 14-16 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam on Jan. 22 also has been canceled. Fans were advised on how to get refunds.

The collapse rendered the Dome's concourses off-limits for a popular indoor winter running program sponsored by the Minnesota Distance Running Association.

"It's been a bad winter for running outdoors, so it's really a shame," said program manager Rick Recker.

Dome is 'versatile'

Lester said that the commission is awaiting a final assessment of the storm damage from engineers with Walter P. Moore and Birdair Inc., which will make the new roof panels at its Mexican plant.

Birdair installed the Dome roof nearly three decades ago and inspected it last summer, finding some wear but judging it in good condition overall.

The engineers took a "laser shoot" of the underside of the Dome roof and also collected samples to test, Lester said.

The commission doesn't yet know how much revenue will be lost because of the canceled events, he said. He said that the commission has event insurance.

TwinsFest is the biggest fundraiser for the Twins Community Fund, earning more than $300,000 for the charity last year. About 10,000 tickets have already been sold or distributed to season-ticket holders, Smith said.

Without the Dome, Minnesota college baseball teams figure to lose money and class time and probably will have to drop a few games. They rent the stadium for nonconference games almost around the clock starting in mid-February, averaging more than five games a day through March.

Through March the University of Minnesota has 16 Dome games scheduled and 16 more beyond that. Division I-AA, II and III teams have 250 more, and a handful of high school tournaments brings potential cancellations to more than 300 games.

"It may affect our won-loss record, because you can't use your best pitchers as often," said Chris Olean, baseball coach at the University of St. Thomas, which is ranked 13th in the nation in Division III.

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference must reschedule dozens of games, Commissioner Dan McKane said. "People don't realize how versatile the Metrodome is. We use it all night long -- we have games at midnight, 2 a.m., in order to keep students home," he said. "Our teams are dependent on the Dome, so this is a real challenge."

kduchschere@startribune.com • 612-673-4455 phil.miller@startribune.com • 612-673-4447

THEY NEED A NEW HOME

TwinsFest: Late-January event draws 30,000-plus fans.

Baseball: Over 300 college and high school games are homeless.

Big events: Celebrations, shows have been canceled.

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