Paul Austin

Paul Austin is the director of Conservation Minnesota, a statewide non-profit. In that role, he gets to hear and share Minnesotan’s stories about our lakes, lands and way of life. Paul’s past lives include election as a small town mayor, serving at the US Agency for International Development, and managing a small marketing firm. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two small children and one very large dog.

Vikings Hometown Pride Is For The Birds

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: July 29, 2014 - 8:03 PM

Minnesota sports fans love their homegrown talent. 

It was a no-brainer when the Twins drafted Joe Mauer first overall in the 2001 draft.  And when Lindsay Whalen decided to come back home to play for the Lynx, she brought back hope and with that hope came championships. 

Even when they may struggle (I’m looking at you, Joe), the fans will always hold a special reverence for a hometown kid who plays for the hometown team. 

And this is why I am so baffled by the debate over the glass in the new Vikings Stadium. 

While to some, it will seem like the age-old story of a big bad business refusing to buckle to the desires of the tree hugging environmental group. 

And in some ways it is.  But in many others, it isn’t.

The folks at the Audubon Society correctly point out that nearly half of North America's bird species, and about 40 percent of its waterfowl, spend at least part of their lives in the Mississippi river flyway. That flyway generally follows the Mississippi river in the United States and the Mackenzie river in Canada. Being a mile off this avian superhighway makes the giant glass facade of the new stadium a legitimate risk to the birds of North America. 

And the team is right.  Every time they turn around, the cost of the stadium seems to increase.  They are currently inching toward the $1 billion barrier, and construction has hardly even started. Eventually you have to draw the line somewhere. There is a lot of glass in this stadium, so glazing the windows to make them less of a threat to birds would cost around $1 million. 

And that is where hometown pride comes in. 

The contractor that is providing the glass for the stadium, Viracon, is an Owatonna based company. While they certainly are great at providing clear glass, they also work in the more bird-safe glass as well.  One need only look at the new Central Library in Minneapolis to see an example of their work with glass that is glazed to prevent bird strikes. 

So, the Vikings have two real options.  They can draw the line in the sand, and hope that the risk the building poses to birds is not as serious as expected. Or they can increase their partnership with a Minnesota company to provide a stadium of which everyone can truly be proud.  

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