The Vikings will be in an open-air "home" stadium … for next week at least.
The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission announced Tuesday that the collapsed roof of the Metrodome will not be repaired in time for the Vikings to host the Chicago Bears there for their final home game of 2010. The roof tore and collapsed shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday morning, forcing the Vikings' scheduled noon game with the New York Giants to be moved to Monday night at Ford Field in Detroit.
Birdair, Inc., the manufacturer and installer of the roof, and Geiger and Associates, the roof's system designer, determined on Tuesday that damage to the roof was worse than originally hoped and that ice and snow in the remaining panels "is so deep that it poses a safety hazard to workers."
The Vikings confirmed that the game will officially be played at TCF Bank Stadium, the home of the Golden Gophers, as long as it is ready and meets NFL requirements, meaning the Vikings should be playing their first game outdoors in Minnesota since the Metrodome opened.
"We'll have to adjust. We'll have to adjust to what we find out," interim Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said before the announcement became official. "If it's going to be outside, we'll do what we've got to do to play outside, and our guys will respond."
The Bears are used to playing outside at Soldier Field, but they were beaten badly in the elements Sunday, as the New England Patriots handled them 36-7 with temperatures in the 20s and winds gusting up to 53 miles per hour. The early forecast for next Monday in Minneapolis calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 23 and low of 9 degrees, and the game is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m.
"Ideally for us, we'd like to be indoors, at home, at the Metrodome, at the Mall of America Field. That would be ideal for us, with our fans," Frazier said. "But if we can't have that, we want to be in Minnesota. We want to be where our fans are, and if that means being outdoors, that's OK, because we'll have our fans, and our guys will feed off the energy of our fans. Doesn't matter the fact that the Bears play outdoors – we want to be where our fans are."
The Vikings wanted to keep the game in Minnesota after having their "home" game against the New York Giants moved to Detroit the day after the roof of the Metrodome collapsed following a snowstorm that dropped 17 inches in Minneapolis on Saturday.
"Preparation of (TCF Bank Stadium) is fully underway and university officials have told us they will make every reasonable effort to ensure the stadium will be ready for Monday night," the Vikings said in a statement. "The league office is assisting our staff and the University to ensure the stadium is safe for our fans and meets the primary technical requirements for an NFL game. We appreciate the tremendous cooperation of the University of Minnesota and look forward to completing preparations for the game and turning this into a memorable experience for the state of Minnesota and Vikings fans."
The MSFC said safety was its first priority in determining that the Metrodome wouldn't be available next week.
"Though we are extremely disappointed with the results of the assessment and the time it will take to replace the panels, our first priority is the safety and well-being of the Vikings fans and players, the hundreds of youth sports, community and other groups that use the Metrodome throughout the year and our employees," said Roy Terwilliger, chairman of MSFC. "When the repairs are completed and the Metrodome is re-inflated, we will have a facility that is in every respect safe and capable of full operations, as it has been for every event since it opened."
The MSFC said a schedule for the needed repairs would be developed in the coming days. The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires after the 2011 season and they have been seeking a public funding for a new stadium for the last decade.
"We are grateful to all of our employees and the outside response team for their commitment and dedication to ensure a quick and safe solution to this incident, especially given the extreme weather conditions that made the assessment process even more difficult," said Terwilliger. "I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the Vikings and the NFL for their partnership as we work through this very challenging situation."
TCF Bank stadium holds 50,000 while the Metrodome holds 64,000. The Vikings haven't announced their plans for dealing with the seating shortage yet.
The team might look into practicing at "The Bank" in the coming days if that's possible, but university officials will be busy trying to clear that field of snow and bring the stadium facilities back into operation after winterizing it after the Gophers' season ended.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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