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Cost of Metrodome, the sequel: $870 million

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE
  • Star Tribune
  • December 17, 2009 - 11:17 PM

The design for what would be a new $870 million home for the Minnesota Vikings on the site of the Metrodome was unveiled Thursday.

Without the Minnesota Vikings.

As Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission members, architects and builders waxed eloquent -- about the proposed stadium's huge glass wall fronting on downtown, its peaked retractable roof shrugging off snow, and its environmentally friendly design -- a glance around the room detected no one from the very team that is pushing for a new facility and would be its main tenant.

That's because the Vikings, burning over the commission's attempt last month to get them to commit to staying in the Metrodome beyond 2011 in exchange for monetary incentives, still refuse to talk to the commission or have anything to do with its work.

In a letter to commission Chair Roy Terwilliger released Thursday, team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said they could not "endorse or support the project" because they are scouting other possible stadium locations locally.

The commission's lease extension offer, they said, has made it necessary for them to take a look around.

"Frankly, we don't understand how you can pass this resolution [seeking an extension] and then, one month later, try to move forward with a stadium design and cost study," the Wilfs said in the letter.

At Thursday's meeting, Terwilliger praised the Wilfs as "wonderful owners" who haven't threatened to move the team out of Minnesota, and described the team's displeasure as a flap between tenant and landlord.

Bill Lester, the commission's executive director, said he didn't see the Wilfs' reference to other local sites as a threat. The Metrodome site, he said, is still the most cost-effective available because all the infrastructure is already there.

Vikings helped guide design

Until last month, Vikings officials had been intimately involved in the stadium design, for which the commission paid HKS Architects of Dallas $2.5 million.

"There is nothing in here that they haven't seen, that their fingerprints are not on, that they haven't endorsed," Lester said.

HKS, which designed recently completed retractable-roof football stadiums in Dallas and Indianapolis, presented a plan for a 1.5-million-square-foot building that would seat 65,000 fans, feature all-digital signage and use an active-passive system to heat and cool the structure.

The building wouldn't be a dome. Instead, it would look something like a huge Chautauqua tent with a peaked roof rising toward downtown.

The stadium would be covered in Teflon-treated fabric similar to the Metrodome bubble, except that it would be held up with cables rather than air. A trapezoidal-shaped transparent roof would slide off the top and down onto the side of the building when the weather was nice enough to go open-air.

HKS architect Bryan Trubey said the facility could host events ranging from high school football playoff games to the Super Bowl, from motor races to political conventions.

Commission Member Paul Thatcher asked if it could handle soccer matches, because the Vikings had told him that the Wilfs want to buy a major league soccer team and move it here.

Yes, Trubey said, soccer was included as part of the design agenda. The stadium would be, he said, "the most technologically advanced multiuse facility" that could be built, "and it will be done at the most efficient square footage and the most economical price" possible.

That price, the commission was told, might be lower than they originally thought.

Originally assuming a price of $954 million, John Wood, of Mortenson Construction, estimated the stadium cost at $870 million if construction begins next fall -- a savings of $84 million, because the recession has dried up demand for materials, lowering costs, he said. But a one-year delay in construction could cost an extra $51 million, he said.

If construction began next year, Wood said, the Vikings could play one more season in the Metrodome before the old structure would have to be demolished. Under this scenario, the team would play two seasons at the U's TCF Bank Stadium before kicking off at the new stadium in the fall of 2013.

Construction could employ 8,000 tradespeople over the life of the project, he said, with a peak workforce of 1,800 to 2,000 people. The economic impact for local subcontractors would be $754 million, he said.

Stadium comparisons

Before the stadium design was unveiled, commissioners got a compare-and-contrast report on various roofed-stadium options from Conventions Sports & Leisure (CSL), a Wayzata consulting firm with an international clientele.

Besides leaving the Metrodome as it is, the choices considered were renovating it, reconstructing around parts of the existing Dome, or building new on the same site.

CSL estimated that a renovated Dome, with more suites and wider concourses, would cost $967.4 million. A reconstructed stadium built around a portion of the existing Metrodome would cost $771.7 million. And an all-new facility would fall in between, at $870 million.

Craig Skiem, CSL's president, said the Vikings would pull in $31.5 million more a year in either a reconstructed or new stadium -- what it would take, he said, for the team to climb out of its self-described low spot on the NFL revenue scale.

According to a recent Forbes magazine story, the team was valued at $835 million and had revenues of $209 million last year. Before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, Forbes reported, the team had $8.2 million in operating income.

Although team owner Zygi Wilf met Tuesday with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Pawlenty has said that he doesn't want to spend public money on a new stadium, though he also doesn't want to lose the Vikings. DFL legislative leaders likewise have balked at financing a stadium at a time when the state is facing crushing budget deficits.

Ken Zapp, an economist at Metropolitan State University who has long opposed public money for stadiums, disputed the commission report this week that Minnesota's professional sports teams have generated more than $450 million in tax revenues since 1961. Zapp said that several economic studies have proved that, without pro sports teams to support, people would simply spend that money on other forms of entertainment.

"Sports teams simply move money from one activity to another," he said.

Staff writers Bob von Sternberg and Mike Kaszuba contributed to this report. Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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