by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor
Former Minnesota Vikings football coach and Hall of Famer Bud Grant said he has always been an advocate of outdoor football but “not any more,” he said after he witnessed the unveiling Monday night (May 13) of the multi-purpose Minnesota Vikings stadium design featuring a new glass look and a fixed roof.
Grant, who led his Vikings to four Super Bowls, was one of 500 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis who attended the public unveiling of the stadium design. Grant, in his coaching days, often led his Vikings in cold and frigid weather during key games.
Grant, still sporting that All American crew-cut look, was introduced by Vikings radio announcer Paul Allen, and his first comment about the $975 million stadium was, “I’m sold.”
Grant was one of the many dignitaries in attendance, but more than three-fourths of those in attendance were from the Vikings fan base.
Vikings fan Christopher Johnson of Stillwater called the stadium design “beautiful” and “iconic.”
The stadium “will transcend time and is something Minnesotans will be proud of for many years,” Johnson said. “I like the glass look and think the design reflects creativity that puts it ahead of most stadiums in the National Football League,” Johnson said.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who helped spearhead action on the Vikings stadium through the Minnesota Legislature, thanked the many who worked to make the project possible. “It was a heroic effort,” he said. Legislators Morrie Lanning, Julie Rosen and Tom Bakk were also recognized. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak saluted the support and work of the Minneapolis City Council.
The stadium will feature a fixed roof that will allow light to come in and give it a clear look, said Bryan Trubey, architect representative from HKS Sports & Entertainment. The stadium will have a seating capacity of 65,000 for football and 73,000 for special events.
The stadium will include seven levels with three levels of suites. Architect Trubey said the Vikings stadium is somewhat comparable to the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. “It is a living, breathing structure,” he said. The stadium will be the “window of the world,” Trubey said.
Trubey elicited laughter when the first slide he presented, showed a snow-laden roof with the message being: “Rule Number One: Get the snow off the roof.”
Trubey outlined the construction of the stadium in layers as he explained that the stadium will have up to 125 suites and 7,500 club seats, including suites and clubs at the field level, some of which will put fans closer to the sideline than in any other NFL stadium.
The asymmetrical stadium will feature two of the largest video boards in the NFL located in both the east and west end zones and video ribbon boards throughout the interior of the seating bowl, Trubey said.
Other stadium amenities will include:
• Large west plaza (over two acres in size) for game day, non-game day and seasonal public gatherings as a connection to the downtown corridor.
• Lightest and most efficient roof structure in the nation for a major new stadium, which will include a single large steel super truss providing primary support for the main long span roof.
• Largest clear ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) roof in the world and the first on a stadium in the nation, allowing connection to the outdoors from a climate-controlled environment.
• Largest glass pivoting doors in the world that will open to the west plaza.
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, opened the evening’s festivities and said the multi-purpose stadium will have the capability to host more events than any other large stadium in the world, including NFL football and a Super Bowl, Major League Soccer, NCAA basketball and baseball, high school sporting events, motocross, concerts, conventions, marching band competitions.
Chair Kelm-Helgen explained that the stadium unveiling would also include a meeting of the Sports Authority board to approve the stadium design. That was done by a unanimous vote of the five-member authority board near the end of the night’s events.
Kelm-Helgen said the stadium construction will create 7,500 new jobs. Hundreds of businesses will also be involved in design and construction, more than 24 expected to be local firms. Minorities and women businesses will also be recruited for the stadium construction, Kelm-Helgen said. Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis is the general contractor.
The multi-purpose stadium will feature restaurants and retail establishments in its infrastructure. “It will become a national and international destination,” Kelm-Helgen said.
Team owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier and Vikings players Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan each said that the stadium is being built for the fans. “This will be a facility for us to enjoy the year around,” Mark Wilf said. “The fans deserve an atmosphere like this,” said the six-foot-eight, 343-pound Loadholt, an offensive tackle.
Ground breaking is planned for the new stadium in October. The Vikings will play one more full season at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and then the stadium comes down, most likely in January of 2014. The Vikings will play two seasons at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Stadium in Minneapolis and then will occupy the new, still-unnamed stadium in July of 2016.
“It’s indeed spectacular,” Grant said at a media reception following the public unveiling.
“Thanks for coming,” Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said to Grant. “I get paid for this,” Grant replied. He is under a life contract with the Vikings.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected]