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Removing stadium seats from Metrodome could be tougher than anticipated

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: December 5, 2013 - 5:40 PM

Ground is broken, the budget stars have aligned and disassembly and demolition will soon commence at the Metrodome to make room for the new Vikings stadium. Now for the 64,000-seat question: What to do with those folding plastic bleacher chairs that, along with the rears planted in them, presided over more than three decades of Minnesota sports history?

About 70 schools, colleges, and nonprofits like community centers have asked about the seats in chunks of 200 to 300 at a time for their facilities. While some will take the auction block, taking them apart and handing them out to deserving organizations isn’t simple or cheap, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen told lawmakers Thursday.

“It’s going to be a fairly major challenge,” Kelm-Helgen said at a hearing for the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Sports Facilities. “Obviously we want to be a resource for those schools and community groups, but here’s the issue we’re confronted with: We need to be very clear what it is they’re getting.”

Dome demolition is expected to begin right after the Vikings’ final home game Dec. 29 to make way for construction of its $975 million replacement, which should open in time for the 2016 NFL season. In the meantime, they’re planning to empty it of its contents, including the seats once the football season is complete. Some are expected to be auctioned, but how many remains uncertain in light of figuring out how to remove and separate them cheaply.

"It's become a stumbling block for us for us to figure out what the cost is going to be and what people can reasonably pay." Kelm-Helgen said.

Most people and organizations who contacted the MSFA has asked for seats or dirt, including the River Falls (Wis.) Baseball Council , which requested “exactly 293 seats” for a townball-style ballpark now under construction. The MSFA wants to oblige, but the seats, Kelm Helgen said, are bolted into concrete slabs with no base. They’re also attached in large rows, making it expensive to remove and separate, she said. Estimates by Mortenson Construction to remove the seats are estimated at $48 per chair, she said. Multiply that by the 20,000 chairs requested by the nonprofits, and the total cost is $960,000.

“Our authority can’t absorb a million dollar cost to remove chairs,” Kelm-Helgen said.

New stadium-style chairs are $150, but even the $48 for used seats will likely be too much for the groups, she said.

Commission co-chair Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, asked whether interested groups could come remove the chairs themselves. Kelm-Helgen said the possibility is unlikely because of insurance, labor union and liability issues, and the difficulty in separating them which is “not just unbolting a few things. It’s a very significant process.”

Champion said he hopes a cost-effective solution can me made for the seats’ removal. “We wouldn’t want to foresee all those wonderful chairs that have great memories just go to waste and end up in some landfill.” he said.

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