The new Vikings stadium won't get the special fritted glass sought by bird advocates because delaying the project would cost too much, members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority said decisively Friday.
That declaration came at the authority's regular meeting, during which several bird lovers once again voiced fears that birds will suffer fatal collisions with the massive glass structure rising in downtown Minneapolis.
Howard Miller raised the specter of dead indigo buntings and ruby-throated hummingbirds "thwacking" against the glass, falling to the ground and lying lifeless on the sidewalk as purple-clad masses arrived for games.
"For many fans, the day is ruined," he said of the possible carnage.
The bird issue has dogged stadium planners for months. Birders have seized upon the $1.1 billion stadium as a potential kill zone along the migratory corridor along the Mississippi River. Absent mitigation, they said, many birds will get confused and fly into the glass.
MSFA officials have met with them repeatedly, including on Thursday, when one bird advocate pleaded for a three- to six-month delay to order, buy and install fritted glass, which is covered with dots that divert birds.
But the Vikings and the MSFA have said from the beginning that they would not switch to fritted glass because it would ruin the airy, glassy feel of the enclosed stadium. Instead, the MSFA is working with 3M on a product to apply to the glass that it says will steer birds away.
MSFA Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen laid out the costs of doing otherwise Friday. A delay would push back the opening into the 2017 NFL season, which could cost a season's worth of Vikings' rent and lost income from other events. Additionally, unpredictable legal liability from contractors would be expensive. In total, Kelm-Helgen said, the delay estimate would be $25 million on the lower end up to $60 million on the higher end.
The first pane of controversial glass will be hung in March, with the structure becoming fully enclosed by November.
Bird lover Catherine Hunt accused the board of offering up an "insincere public relations maneuver" by testing 3M products as possible bird deterrents. "Please explain to us what is keeping you from doing the right thing," she said.
Another speaker held up a T-shirt with a rendering of the new stadium and the words "Minnesota's Newest Brain Trauma Center."
Board member John Griffith responded that the delay is "not an option" because of the cost, while member Bill McCarthy openly chafed at the protesters' assertions the board was "unresponsive."
But Griffith and Kelm-Helgen said the 3M option is real. Kelm-Helgen said 3M has two current products and two in development that are applied to the glass after it's in place. The MSFA is developing protocols for testing the products to see if they work. Kelm-Helgen said an announcement on the issue could come by March.
In response to Miller's vision of carnage, Kelm-Helgen said, "we certainly don't have any evidence" that would happen. She pointed to other large glass buildings, including the IDS Center, that aren't surrounded by felled birds.
Design changes OK'd
In other actions, the board approved more than $900,000 in additional funding from the Vikings for some design changes, including installing polymer partitions in the restrooms rather than painted wood. MSFA executive director Ted Mondale said the polymer will be more durable.
The board also formally increased from $3 million to $10 million the amount contracted food vendor Aramark will put into the facility. The $10 million will come from Aramark to use for equipment and design of concessions areas. Mondale said the food will all be cooked at the stadium and will be the best in Minnesota stadiums. "This will be the building you want to go to if you like a hot dog with your game," he said.