Metrodome memories: Tim Irwin

Tim Irwin experienced one year at Met Stadium before moving indoors with the Vikings in 1982. Let's just say he wasn't particularly fond of the building, even if he appreciated the noise and the fans it housed.

The Metrodome may have been the building that kept the "Minnesota" in Minnesota Vikings, but that doesn't mean former Pro Bowl tackle Tim Irwin had to like it.

"I did not like playing in this building. You couldn't breathe here, the same phenomenon in Detroit, which is a sister stadium," Irwin said upon his return to the Metrodome earlier this month. "I loved the atmosphere. I've got great memories here, but I don't have too much to say good about being a player in this building. I'm ready for them to knock it down."

Irwin figured his breathing issue back in 1982 had something to do with the way the dome was pressurized. He spent his rookie season with the Vikings at Met Stadium and didn't like the transition to the Metrodome for several reasons.

"It was always too hot for me. I like the cold. I'd be perfectly fine doing this interview out there (in zero degrees). I was happy to come to Minnesota. I didn't want to go anywhere where it was hot," he said. "After playing the first year in the Met and then coming in here, I felt like we lost a little bit of an edge that we had over teams that had to come play us. I don't think I'm alone in that feeling.

"I appreciate the fact that in some of the time I was here in those 13 years it would have been almost impossible to have a meaningful football game. Some of them were really bad. They'd always show the scene outside the Metrodome and I remember a couple days thinking, ‘Yeah, it's probably a good thing we're not out there.'"

Irwin made those comments on the day he was being honored as part of the team's All-Metrodome team, as voted on by fans. There wasn't a hint of ingratitude to the fans, simply an honest opinion.

Irwin may not have liked the warm indoor atmosphere or how it transformed a roster that wasn't necessarily built for speed into one that needed to adapt to the artificial turn – "you can't hit what you can't catch," he said – he appreciated the crowd.

"It mattered. It definitely mattered. There are some good memories here. I can tell you right where the wives section was. I can still wake up sometimes and think about it," he said.

And, although the Metrodome was built on the cheap for $55 million with few NFL-worthy amenities, it also served a purpose as a multi-use stadium that Twins and Vikings shared through the 1980s and 1990 and much of the first decade of the 2000s.

And with the Vikings having an ironclad lease for the first 30 years, it was sure to keep the team in Minnesota.

"It may be this place that kept the Minnesota Vikings from being the something-else Vikings. I don't know that. I don't know how that kind of operation works, but it served its purpose," Irwin said. "It's the last one of them around. Seattle is gone, Detroit is gone, let's kill this one and let's move on to something bigger and better. I'm excited about that."

The Vikings will return to the elements for the next two seasons at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium before their new stadium with a translucent roof is to be ready for play in 2016.

But Irwin will always have his memories of the Metrodome. One thing he remembers most is then-coach Bud Grant putting him in charge of manning the locker room door before games. He was player in charge of keeping everyone else out, including the officials who at that time like to fraternize with players before the game, Irwin said.

But Grant placed Irwin at the door before the game and had the officials knock and let him know what it was time to take the field.

These days, Irwin is a juvenile court judge in Knoxville, Tenn., with seven magistrates working under him, but he isn't going to protect the Metrodome from harm. He might even welcome a return to Minnesota on Jan. 18 when the power will be shut off and the deconstruction starts.

"I think I miss the people I played with more than I'll miss this place. Winter Park was my home. I just visited here once a week," Irwin said. "I was almost sadder when they tore down the Met than I am now. If they wanted me to, I'd swing the first hammer. If I could work the crane, I'd swing the first wrecking ball."

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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