Vikings fans got their first look at U.S. Bank Stadium during a series of recent open house events. What they saw was largely the vision of John Hutchings, the lead architect on the HKS-designed stadium. Hutchings, while inside U.S. Bank Stadium recently for a media event, chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q When you see your vision come to life like this, what’s your impression?
A Well, we’re standing in one of the coolest places in the stadium [Mystic Lake’s Club Purple], because we have an outdoor deck with views back toward downtown as well as some nice lounge seating into the stadium. That’s a new product that was rolled out just for the Vikings. No stadium that we’ve done has that.
Q What were some of the challenges and rewards of the project?
A Well, one of the biggest rewards was the ETFE roof hasn’t been done in North America. We convinced the Vikings and the stadium authority that they could save money, and we could still provide sort of an outdoor feel with the clear ETFE roof. I think it’s everything we hoped it would be. Everybody likes it. There’s more light in the bowl, and it saves on energy. … You can see blue sky and clouds. It still has a product on it that cuts down on the solar radiation. You can see the sun on the south side of the stadium right now, but it’s not a harsh light. It’s an outdoor feel in an indoor NFL stadium.
Q What are some of your favorite touches as you walk through the stadium?
A I love Valhalla, now known as the Medtronic Club, because of the two-story element and the two fireplaces and the finishes inside. The lower suites are the closest suites in the NFL to the action, so that’s fun for those suite owners and founding partners. The big doors, I can’t wait for those to open and the public gets to feel what it’s like to enter through an open end of the stadium.
Q What projects had you worked on previously?
A I was the principal in charge of Lucas Oil in Indianapolis for the Colts. I was the project manager for Miller Park, where the Brewers play. American Airlines Center in Dallas — the arena where the Stars and Mavericks play.
Q So you’ve done all the sports. When you’re designing a football stadium, what types of different things are you taking into account?
A It depends on what sports you’re playing. We have a stadium going on right now in Perth, Australia, where they play Aussie rules football and cricket. You can imagine how big the playing field is. It’s difficult when you play a smaller sport — and football is considered a smaller sport in terms of the field, even compared to FIFA soccer. The way we’ve accommodated that here is with retractable rows. … And we had a requirement to accommodate collegiate baseball, but the Vikings still wanted a very intimate feel for their fans. So we were able to come up with a design that has 32 rows that retract, which has never been done before in a modern stadium. The Vikings didn’t like what we had done in Indianapolis, so we went through a lot of things to make sure the seats were substantial. It turned out to be great.