New-look panels spiffing up Dome roof

Crummy April weather hasn't slowed work to replace the Metrodome's 29-year-old roof.

The sideline report on the Metrodome roof replacement: The game is going well, there are no injuries and there's plenty of time left to win.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission got an update Thursday on work begun in late March to replace the roof, which was shredded in a December blizzard.

From inside the Dome looks like a huge sunroom under construction, with large square holes lined with cables where new panels will be clamped. Yellow air pillows have been placed on the roof to anchor panels should it get windy. The new panels have a clean, light-tan appearance that stands out next to the grubby and rumpled original panels.

POLISHING DIAMONDS

Work crews have installed 32 of the 64 diamond-shaped fiberglass panels that form the center of the roof, Dome engineer Steve Maki said. Despite this month's rain, snow and high winds, the work is on track to be done by Aug. 1. The Vikings' first home exhibition game isn't until Aug. 27, leaving time for structural inspections and perhaps an open house, executive director Bill Lester said.

WORKING ON THE EDGE

The work is being done by 30 ironworkers, six laborers and two heavy-equipment operators. They're directed by eight supervisors with Birdair, the New York-based contractor that designed and installed the Dome's original roof. Crews are working six days a week, 10 hours a day, Maki said.

HEAVY LIFTING

Workers soon will begin installing rectangular panels that form the roof's perimeter. Those may prove more challenging to wrestle with than the diamonds; the longest rectangles measure 40 by 229 feet. Winches are bringing the fabric from the stadium floor to the roof.

VEKICH JOINS TEAM

Stadium commission chair Ted Mondale said businessman Michael Vekich, who's helped the commission with roof financing issues, is turning his attention to financing plans for a new Vikings stadium that would use tax-exempt bonds. Mondale added that he will say more, perhaps next week, on how three possible stadium sites -- two in Minneapolis and one in Arden Hills -- compare.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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