The Vikings unveiled the design of their future home in a red-carpet presentation Monday night, and the yet-to-be-named stadium comes complete with bells and whistles and abundance of windows.
That was the minimum expectation, of course, because the stadium will cost just south of $1 billion. Anything with that price tag should come with a “wow” factor. The Vikings treated the occasion like a gala, inviting dignitaries, fans and media to the Guthrie Theater for a first glimpse of a structure that finally will became a reality after years of hard-fought battles at the State Capitol.
If Vikings owner Zygi Wilf had any sense of humor, he would have begun the presentation with video of the Metrodome roof collapsing under the weight of snow before cutting away to his new stadium. A before-after contrast always creates a dramatic effect.
In all seriousness, the new stadium is bright and open and includes many features that will improve Vikings gameday exponentially. Sightlines are better, and wider concourses won’t turn fans into human bumper cars anymore. Two high-definition video boards will enhance the experience, women will be able to use the restroom without missing an entire quarter and five 95-foot pivot windows allow in plenty of sunlight. Architects even connected the skyway system to the stadium.
Truthfully, I came to the event expecting to be disappointed that the stadium does not include a retractable roof, which sort of felt like putting a cassette tape player in a Ferrari. You’ve already spent a lot of money. Why not go all the way?
The Vikings say their budget doesn’t allow for an extra $25 million to $50 million to pay for a retractable roof. I questioned why a billionaire owner wouldn’t dig a little deeper and find a way to make it work, so that fans can enjoy our fall weather, even if the team only opened it a handful of games each season. Fans have been cooped up long enough for football games.
That said, the Vikings found a suitable compromise that will bring an outdoor feel and atmosphere to the stadium. The stadium is covered by a clear, transparent roof that lets in plenty of light — enough to cast shadows based on a video presentation. The large pivot doors open to the west, allowing views of the downtown skyline. Those two features will add ambience and light and give the stadium a unique quality.
Anything beats a Teflon ceiling and dumpy amenities, of course. The cost and funding mechanisms for this project still divide citizens and spark arguments over whether this is money well spent. But in simple football terms and entertainment value, a new football stadium is long overdue.
The Dome provided a loud, obnoxious home-field advantage, but everything about the place is antiquated and cumbersome. People pay big money these days for the entire gameday experience, and Vikings fans are getting shortchanged in that regard.
Having visited other NFL cities as a Vikings beat writer, I’ve witnessed the stark difference between the Dome and venues in other locales such as Green Bay, Arizona, New Jersey, Indianapolis, Houston, New England and Detroit, to name a few. Those communities take pride in their stadiums. Ours has become a punch line.
Football stadiums usually don’t inspire the same romantic attachment as baseball ballparks. Many baseball purists take pilgrimages to every major league stadium as part of their bucket list. You don’t hear that happening as much in football.
But this new stadium will enhance the overall fan experience, make the Vikings more financially competitive and give our community something to proud of, much like we obsess over Target Field’s splendor. The stadium also should bring our market into the discussion as potential hosts of a Super Bowl, Final Four and other major events.
Monday’s unveiling served as another milestone event in a long and sometimes painful process. We finally know what the Vikings stadium will look like. At first blush, the place seems opulent, like a $1 billion home should.
Now the question is, how are they going to pay for this?