Vikes Unveil Stadium Design; U of M Design Dean Weighs In

Thomas R. Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design and co-chair of the stadium’s Design Implementation Committee, said the design was inspired by various landforms in the area and “the things that it evokes . . . will be understood and appreciated 10 to 20 to 30 years from now.” But not everyone agrees.

Vikings officials, architects, and government leaders on Monday night unveiled the design of the $975 million Vikings stadium—and although it won’t have a retractable roof, the plan does call for a partially transparent roof that the Vikings claim is the largest one in the world.
The stadium, which will be nearly twice the size of the Metrodome, features five, 95-foot-tall pivoting glass doors that will open towards the downtown Minneapolis skyline; the doors, each of which is 50 feet wide, will allow fans to enter and exit a plaza just outside the stadium that spans more than 2 acres.
The building, which will have four entrances, is asymmetrical and features sharp angles and a roofline that rises to a peak on the end that faces downtown. That same side of the building serves as the main entryway, and the end juts out and looks like what appears to be the prow of a ship or a jagged iceberg.
Thomas R. Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design and co-chair of the stadium’s Design Implementation Committee (which provided design guidelines to project architect HKS, Inc., and is focused on “everything from the skin of the stadium out”) said the design is timeless, partly because it was made to connect to some of the landforms in the area. The project’s architect, HKS, Inc., looked at the way that ice forms on lakes and the rock outcroppings on the Mississippi River and used them as inspiration for the triangular-like shards of wall that appear in the design. The asymmetrical, jutting features also evoke the image of a body moving and “the physical activity of the sports going on inside,” he said, adding that “the things that it evokes . . . will be understood and appreciated 10 to 20 to 30 years from now.”
Fisher added that the angles on the roof push snow and precipitation to the large (but invisible from the outside) gutter system that surrounds it, which then carries it to the ground.
The building façade will be made of metal panels and a glazed glass curtain wall. The northern half of the roof will have a hard covering or deck, and the southern half will be made of transparent ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE, a fluorine-based plastic that was designed to have high corrosion resistance and strength over a wide temperature range.
In terms of the glass used in the design, Fisher points out that “we’re in the Silicon Valley of glazing and windows in this region,” so the glass provides yet another connection to Minnesota, home to two large window companies: Andersen Windows & Doors and Marvin Windows and Doors.
A walkway will surround the stadium and lead fans to and from stadium gates—and a field of artificial turf will be surrounded by seven stadium decks and two large scoreboards at each end zone.
“Vikings fans will be closer to the action than any stadium in the country,” Vikings Owner and Chairman Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “The combination of operable end walls with a clear roof and large windows throughout the facility will give fans the opportunity to experience the best of both worlds: an outdoor feel with protection from the elements.”
A few minutes after the project’s architect, HKS, Inc., unveiled the design during a Monday night presentation at the Guthrie Theater, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority approved the design, which will now go to the City of Minneapolis for review.
The stadium will span 1.6 million square feet—and it will seat 65,000 people for NFL games and accommodate up to 73,000 for special events, like a Super Bowl.
“We wanted a design that encourages a connection into the neighborhoods, that will spur economic development, and that will act as a destination rather than a barrier,” Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, said in a statement. “The design, the amount of glass and light, and the transparency makes this an iconic building that will attract the Super Bowl, NCAA basketball and baseball tournaments, world-class concerts, and other great events. The benefits to the state’s economy will be incredible.”
Although the crowd of more than 500 people who gathered at the stadium design unveiling on Monday had an overwhelmingly positive reaction, not everyone is equally enamored with the design. MinnPost blogger Nathaniel M. Hood said he thinks it looks like “a cross between a laser jet printer, a drunk Frank Gehry, and something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey.” He claims the plaza won’t do much for pedestrian activity or promoting a lively streetscape during non-game days and pointed out that there are no new improved transportation connections between the Downtown East neighborhood and the rest of downtown or the Mississippi River. Additionally, he fears that no one will want to live by “a monolithic, mega church of a building that only occasionally pays homage to the cultural Gods of Football.”
Meanwhile, other negative reactions were shared in the comments section of an ESPN blog. “The Metrodome is barely worse than this monstrosity,” one reader wrote. Several others said the building looks like a church, and another said that its trendy style could look dated in 10 or 15 years. Others questioned whether it makes sense to pay almost $1 billion for a building that doesn't have a retractable roof.
However, three local experts who spoke with the Pioneer Press gave the stadium design high marks.
Kelm-Helgen told Twin Cities Business that a retractable roof, which the team and the authority initially planned to pursue, was under discussion for a long time, and the decision to go without it was “not so much a budget issue” as it was a determination that pivot doors would be best given Minnesota’s climate and weather considerations. She added that the feature was also quite costly; citing industry experts, the Star Tribune said that retractable roofs generally cost anywhere from $25 million to $50 million more to build and install than a fixed roof.
Fisher added, “There’s a reason why very few of us have operable skylights on our own roofs.” He pointed out that it’s much less expensive to open doors than it is to retract a roof and said leaks can happen with retractable roofs.
Inside the stadium, one side will have suites on three of the seven levels and the other side will have one level of suites; some of the suites will be at field level. Concourses will be wider than those at the Metrodome, and there will be “twice as many bathrooms,” Kelm-Helgen told Twin Cities Business.
Groundbreaking for the new, 65,000-seat stadium will take place in October, and demolition of the Metrodome will begin in early 2014. The new stadium is scheduled to open in time for the Vikings 2016 season.
John Wood, senior vice president at Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction, the stadium’s builder, said in a statement that an estimated 7,500 construction-related jobs will be created as the stadium is being built, and the project will provide business opportunities for “hundreds of local subcontractors and suppliers.”