Dome collapse exposes flaws

The collapse of the Metrodome roof has the Vikings and thousands of fans scrambling. A three-game "home" stand will see games played in three different stadiums, millions in lost revenue, and plenty of headaches.

Monday's game with Chicago was supposed to be the end of a three-game homestand. Yet, somehow, the Vikings are going to end up playing the three games in three different stadiums. The announcement that the game has been moved to TCF Bank Stadium, pending stadium readiness and an NFL inspection, is going to cause numerous dilemmas for fans, team and media alike.

The biggest logistical problem for the team is that the game will be played outdoors on the Monday night before Christmas. To turn a coaching cliché, I'm not a meteorologist, but it's a safe bet it's going to be cold and windy. The Vikings are a dome team that is built for a dry track. The Bears would seem to be more at home playing in the elements.

A second problem involves the stadium itself. Although only a couple of miles from the Metrodome, parking could be an issue as fans work through unfamiliar territory. Most will probably go in blind, get lost, get gouged to pay for parking and show up late for the kickoff. Fans are general creatures of habit. They park in the same lots. They tailgate in the same lots. They know who is watching their vehicles when they're at the game. There is going to be a significant traffic tie-up during Monday rush hour in the campus area as thousands who haven't been to a Gophers game – their team can't draw flies – and the unfamiliar surroundings is likely to cause unanticipated problems.

Another issue is that the people who built "The Bank" knew the Gophers football team would be a hard sell to consumers. Their biggest crowds typically come from games with Iowa or Wisconsin, where the stands are filled with fans of the other team. At most, TCF Bank Stadium can hold 50,000 – with some of them standing. Oy! The Metrodome has a capacity of 63,854 – a number that shows up too often not to be the fire marshal limit. That's a disparity of almost 14,000 people. Somebody has to go. Are there the same number of luxury suites? No, about half. Do season ticket holders get priority over the fans who spent double the face value two months ago as a birthday present for the Vikings fan in his/her life? Somebody gets the shaft.

Unfortunately, we may find out that the Vikings fans of 2010 aren't the hale and hearty fans of 1970 or 1980. If you've ever been to a game at Lambeau Field or Soldier Field in December or January, you are in for a rude awakening if you aren't dressed for the occasion. Temperatures are forecast in the single digits for lows Monday. Maybe the body-painting crowd will take advantage of the opportunity to embarrass themselves publicly by spelling out "T-JACK" on their chests and torsos. Unfortunately, we may find the same people who brave the elements from their cars to the door of the Metrodome won't feel too inclined for a campus visit.

Depending on your point of view, the biggest problem could be the stadium concession stands. TCF Bank Stadium doesn't sell beer. Given the fact that Iowa and Wisconsin fans come in every other year and Minnesota doesn't lag far behind in the DFPC ratings (Drunk Fans Per Capita), they could pay the stadium off one $8 beer at a time. Of all the problems they face, this one could be sticky – especially of an anonymous bureaucrat with some stroke decides that a one-day liquor license simply can't be granted on such short notice.

With temperatures below zero and a big hole in the roof, it would seem that everything inside the dome – electronics, plumbing, etc. – has been exposed to long-term freezing. Those who live in Minnesota know what a deep freeze does to both water and car batteries. If you can get your car started the first week of February, you can go drive on a lake. The damage done to the dome may well be much more than simply repairing the roof. The working parts that are the pulse of the building are frozen. While due diligence is being done to protect the must-stay-warm components of the building, we're in unchartered territory. The Metrodome hasn't been exposed to the elements in a sub-zero condition.

The collapse of the dome has created a lot of buzz about the stadium issue. In some ways, it might be the eye-opener lawmakers need to get off their hands and move on a stadium after a decade-and-a-half of stadium efforts being rejected. In between TCF Bank Stadium and the Metrodome lies the I-35 bridge. When the Metrodome collapsed, nobody got hurt. It wasn't supposed to come down. Neither was the bridge, but both did. It took the I-35 tragedy to get bridges throughout Minnesota fixed. It may have taken the collapse for the Metrodome to be exposed for the dump it is – forcing the Vikings to play two games of a three-game "homestand" in Detroit and on a college campus.

There are going to be a lot of problems moving Monday's game to TCF Bank Stadium, but it will surely establish one new NFL record – three home games in three weeks in three different stadiums.


  • In the first of what may be a series of such announcements, the Vikings have shut down cornerback Chris Cook for the year. The team promoted tackle Thomas Welch from the practice squad to the 53-man roster Tuesday.

  • The Vikings played the Packers on the University of Minnesota campus in 1969 when they went to their first Super Bowl. The Vikings won that game 19-7. The Vikings were moved to Memorial Stadium because the Twins were playing the Baltimore Orioles in the American League playoffs at Metropolitan Stadium.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.

  • Viking Update Top Stories