From the moment the first images of the new Vikings stadium flashed across the big screen at the Guthrie Theater on Monday, Dean Jacobson liked what he saw.
The pivoting glass doors. The see-through ceiling. The angled roof line that peaks to the west. The ship-like profile and jagged prow against the backdrop of a majestic downtown skyline.
It was more than the 72-year-old Elliot Park resident thought he’d see in the design of a stadium destined to replace the bland and bloated Metrodome.
“It’s just spectacular,” said Jacobson, who can see the Dome’s pillowlike top from his living room window seven blocks away. “I think this one will be here 100 years from now. It’s going to be a classic piece of great architecture for this era.”
In the week that has passed since the first renderings of the nearly billion-dollar stadium were unveiled, second-guessers have pounced and praised. Some think it’s too bulky, too gaudy and too futuristic. Others applaud the bold, glassy look of a design that, from most angles, appears more like a ship than a professional football stadium.
Yet for all the feedback, pro and con, it’s in the neighborhoods closest to the stadium where the design might matter most. It’s there, on the streets of Elliot Park south of the Dome to the Mill District that lines the banks of the Mississippi River, where residents, merchants and workers must live with the massive new NFL venue long after the fourth quarter ends.
Amid last week’s glitz and hype, reviews were mixed.
While Jacobson, a semiretired accountant, saw “a big diamond” on the skyline, Heather Dalzen, manager at the Band Box Diner in Elliot Park, saw something that’s “pretty Space Age.”
David Tinjum, who lives in a condominium near the Guthrie and has a balcony view of the Dome and the new stadium site, said the design evokes images of “icebergs and Vikings ships.” He said he liked what he has seen so far, but wants more details before judging.
At 1.6 million square feet, the new stadium will dominate downtown’s east end and dwarf the eyesore it replaces, weighing in at nearly twice the size and standing 100 feet taller.
Fans will enter at one of four major entrances, with the grand gateway featuring five 95-foot-high pivoting glass doors that face downtown.
The building’s facade will be made up of a mix of glazed glass curtain wall and metal panels that change tone in sunlight. Its roof will be one-half hard decking, with the remainder covered by ETFE, a transparent polymer that was used to cover the outside of the Beijing National Aquatics Center, also known as the “Water Cube,” site of the 2008 Olympic swimming competition.
Millie Schafer, an Elliot Park homeowner for the past 40 years, called it a “beautiful building,” but added that she wonders how “those big glass doors” will hold up over time.
She also questioned the durability of the ETFE, a material that has been used extensively in sports venues in other countries, but not in the U.S.
“I kind of wonder how proven that roof material is,” said Schafer, who has watched the Teflon top of the Metrodome collapse several times over 30 years.
Judy Borger, a Mill District resident who is a member of the city’s stadium implementation committee, which must review and approve the design before it goes to planners and, ultimately, the City Council, wondered at a recent meeting whether fans sitting under the transparent portion of the roof will get too hot from sunlight.
That said, she was pleased that HKS Inc., the project architect, chose a fixed roof over a retractable one, because it allows the team and stadium authority to spend more on other stadium features.
“It’s growing on me,” she said of the design. “As I sit and listen to the logic behind the decisions that were made, they seem reasonable to me.”
Not ‘another jelly roll’
David Fields, a longtime Elliot Park resident and the neighborhood’s community development coordinator, said he was especially pleased that the stadium is asymmetrical in shape and won’t be another circular “jelly roll” like the Dome.
He said the extra entrances, combined with the heavy use of glass and see-through roof material, will also make the venue more inviting than its dated predecessor.
“It’s an attraction in and of itself,” Fields said. “When you first look at it, you don’t associate it with a sports facility. You don’t associate it with a brawny, masculine game. In fact, I can see some Vikings fans seeing it as being too dainty. It could be an opera house.”
Said Barb Lotti, a dental assistant at the nearby Hennepin County Medical Center, just down the block from the Dome, “I was kind of for a retractable roof, but this gives you light and an outdoor feel without the elements and without getting wet.”
Fields said any concerns that the building will be too overwhelming for its surroundings will likely diminish if, and when, nearby development materializes.
He said last week’s announcement by developer Ryan Cos. that it plans to build a $400 million office, housing and retail complex that would include two 20-story office towers on five blocks near the Metrodome, currently owned by the Star Tribune, could not only soften the stadium’s impact on the eastern downtown skyline, but lead to more development.
“Some people in the neighborhood might never set foot in the stadium,” she said. “But they are definitely going to be touched by what goes up around it.”