The Minnesota Vikings want a peaceful, orderly send-off Sunday for the Metrodome, the stadium the team fought so hard to leave.
“We want to send it off in the right way,” Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson said Thursday. “It’s a historic building, not just for Vikings fans, but for Minnesotans.”
To ensure that calm is kept, the hometown NFL team is bringing in extra security for Sunday’s noon finale against the Detroit Lions. The Vikings also hope to slake fans’ thirst for historical tokens by handing out commemorative items.
The goal: to avoid the wholesale destruction that occurred after the team’s final game at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington in 1981. The game plan: zero tolerance. After the Vikings lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 in the game at the Met, fans scaled the scoreboard, tore down goalposts and damaged or hauled off pretty much everything but the frozen field. Fights broke out. Nine people were arrested that day.
Since opening in 1982, the Metrodome has seen lots of history. The Dome was the Minnesota Twins’ home for the 1987 and 1991 World Series championships. And the Minnesota Gophers played there for years, as have scores of high school teams.
But the Twins and the Gophers left for their own stadiums, and now the Vikings will get theirs, with demolition preparation beginning Monday and roof deflation planned for Jan. 18.
Although the building will start coming down soon, the goal is to leave it to professional demolition crews rather than raucous fans.
“Safety is really, really important,” said Jenn Hathaway, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.
That means those cute recycling bins with the purple helmets can’t be taken out the revolving exit doors, and carving off a piece of a Metrodome seat could result in a trip to the Hennepin County jail.
“Hopefully our fans will be respectful and we’ll be able to go out in a memorable way,” Anderson said.
The team and the authority have reason to be wary. When the San Francisco 49ers played their final regular season game at Candlestick Park on Monday night, some 30 fans were arrested, mostly for public drunkenness, but at least one was accused of trying to take home a piece of the park, according to news reports.
Anderson said Vikings fans tend to be better-behaved than fans in other NFL stadiums. The per-game arrest average for the last three years is no more than one person, and fewer than 10 fans are ejected each game for bad behavior, Anderson said, adding that both numbers are below the league average.
“When you have 64,000 people in the stadium, it can be difficult to make sure you don’t have issues,” Anderson said.
Typically, the team’s private security firm brings 500 guards to a game. On Sunday, that number will be 600. The Vikings also increased from 60 to 110 the number of off-duty Minneapolis police officers they will hire for the game.
The First Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department is responsible for the streets around the Dome. Inspector Medaria Arradondo said extra officers will be on duty for the game in case they’re needed, but he added, “The focus is really going to be on the inside.”
Security will tighten around the field as the game draws toward its end. Guards will closely monitor fans as they leave the building through the revolving doors.
“Basically, nothing is coming out of that building,” said Hathaway.
After Sunday’s game, the team plans a farewell ceremony with running back Adrian Peterson, former players Matt Birk and Robert Smith and former coach Bud Grant.
For the fans who want a hunk of history, the Vikings will provide each with a commemorative pennant honoring the first and final games at the Metrodome.
And those who absolutely must have a piece of the Dome will get a chance. The authority is in discussions with vendors to sell seats and could complete the arrangement by Friday or at the latest, by next week.
San Francisco is selling Candlestick seats for $649 a pair. One “problem” the Vikings (4-10-1) won’t have that San Francisco (11-4) might: the need to repair seats damaged during a playoff game.