Dome raises new roof in 45 minutes

With the Metrodome roof inflated following its replacement, all that's missing is the main tenant.

At 7:13 a.m Wednesday, the radio voice of technician Leo Pidde in the Metrodome's football press box broke the hush that had settled over the famously noisy stadium.

"Five, four, three, three, three" -- Dome humor, gotta love it -- "two, one. Here we go!"

"OK, we're going," said Steve Maki, the Dome's chief engineer. "10-4, get it going."

A dozen 100-horsepower fans came alive without making an audible sound, slowly but steadily pushing up the new Teflon-coated fiberglass on the perimeter. Dozens of silver-colored acoustic panels, hanging like flags from the center of the ceiling, began to sway.

Up on the stadium's rim, ironworkers armed with long poles stood ready to jerk free the roof fabric should it snag.

Riding the roof itself, warmed by sunny, 62-degree weather -- a stark contrast to the snowy, 1-degree morning when the 29-year-old roof fell last December -- four men in safety harnesses kept an eye out for problems.

About 45 minutes after liftoff, a slimmed-down, $18 million roof -- speckled with colorful air pillows to cut the wind -- resumed its marquee spot on the Minneapolis skyline.

"The inflation went without a hitch," said Ted Mondale, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. "We'll be ready for the Vikings, if they're ready," a reference to the NFL's labor dispute.

Said Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley: "We're going to get our home field advantage back."

The Vikings' first preseason game is slated for Aug. 27, should the dispute end. An open house is set for Aug. 20.

"I'm exhilarated," said a beaming Bill Lester, the stadium commission's executive director. "We're in the business of hosting events and we're back to that, and I like that a lot."

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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