The Minnesota Vikings will announce a surprise addition to the plaza outside the team's new stadium Thursday — a stylized ship that will showcase the personalized pavers purchased by fans and nod to the state's Nordic heritage.

The ship, similar to the one outside the team's Winter Park headquarters, will rest in front of the five pivoting glass doors of U.S. Bank Stadium that face downtown Minneapolis, below the peak of the $1.1 billion structure. A 2,000-square-foot video board will serve as the ship's 55-foot-high sail. The bow will be a 43-foot-high dragon's head with Vikings horns and purple eyes that light up.

"We have this amazing three-acre plaza that we wanted to bring to life with something fans would be drawn to," Vikings vice president Tanya Dreesen said, adding that the ship has significance both for the team and the ancestry of some Minnesotans. "It also provides a nice dotted line to the spirit of the art collection" inside the stadium, she said.

The ship will be privately paid for, she said.

As the team worked to develop something for the plaza, Dreesen said the driving question was: "How can we make this a showstopper?"

The team worked to find something that could stand up next to the heft of the stadium, a building so large that it has already become a defining feature of the city. The stadium — and now the ship — anchor the flurry of development in the eastern part of downtown that will include Wells Fargo headquarters, residential areas and a park.

Fans will be able to walk aboard the ship, which will have seating, stainless-steel railings and 150 feet of historical displays.

Designed by RipBang Studios, a California-based division of the Minneapolis design firm Nelson, the ship will incorporate stainless steel, stone, concrete and wood. Trees will surround the ship, which will also have theatrical lighting, sound and smoke effects.

The engraved fan pavers will form the bedrock. The team has sold about 6,000 of the pavers and has room for twice as many. Priced at $160, $295 and $360, fans can choose their statements to be a permanent part of the structure at

The 15-inch-deep video board will be placed close to where the old Metrodome's board stood. It will be the stadium's marquee to promote upcoming games and events, Dreesen said.

The board also will show clips from live games inside the stadium. What happens with the board on the other 350-some days a year has yet to be determined.

For years, the Vikings current ship has been visible from Interstate 494 outside the team's Eden Prairie headquarters at the junction with Hwy. 169. The older ship is 70 feet long and 18 feet wide. The new one will be 160 feet long and 45 feet wide.

Minnesota Sports Facilities Administration chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said the structure will be a "distinct monument" and "unlike anything we've previously seen with stadiums around the country."

Construction will begin on the ship in late spring, Dreesen said. It will open for the first preseason game.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson