Audubon Society raises stadium concerns

The Audobon Society is concerned about the effects a translucent roof and wall in the new Vikings stadium will have on birds in flight.

Of all the potential disputes that were going to be part of the construction of the new Vikings stadium, one of the least expected was a request from the Audubon Society to modify the construction of the structure to help preserve a duck dynasty.

While the new Vikings stadium is going to be an iconic showpiece, one of the facets that is going to make it so unique is that it will have large expanses of glass-like material – not just on the roof but one of the full sides of the building. The intention was to give a mandated fixed-roof stadium an outdoor feel (not temperature-wise, but in terms of aesthetics). It was part of the design to not be a cookie-cutter blueprint eyesore of a stadium like the Metrodome was, but a piece of the Minneapolis skyline that will become immediately identifiable to future generations as iconic.

But the stadium lies right along one of the greatest migratory bird flight paths in the world. The Mississippi River is a guidance point for migratory birds that travel north in the spring and south in the autumn. Most of us don’t take notice, but literally billions of birds use the Mississippi River as their GPS to get to where they’re going. The Audubon Society was very well familiarized with this and the potential problem a glass-heavy stadium can have, sending birds to a life-ending flight plan. Not dozens. Potentially thousands.

The Audubon Society brought up the matter this spring about the potential for birds flying full speed into the glass panes that will be part of the north end of the stadium – as birds are flying south in the autumn and the stadium will be filled on Sundays with Vikings fans.

In a statement released Thursday, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority said that, while measures were taken upon hearing the legitimate concern of the Audubon Society, they were a little late to the party. The stadium design and budget had already been completed and was also finished before the state imposed its new guidelines for bird-safe glass.

“One of the design goals was to create a building that was more connected and integrated with the community than the Metrodome had been,” said Michele Kelm-Helgen of the MSFA. “The ability to see in and out of the stadium was what led us to the design the included the EFTE roof and operable doors on the downtown facing wall.”

The stadium designers have met several times with Audubon Society officials to attempt to minimize the potential problems of bird-to-building collisions. Those in charge have agreed to the “Lights Out” proposal of the Audubon Society that makes sure that, when the stadium isn’t in use at night that there isn’t a visual optical illusion.

According to the release, bird-safe glass would require an additional $1.1 million to the budget.

The good news is that the stadium construction portion is in its baby step stage. Contracts aren’t being bid on for glass yet. The budget specs have already been completed, but bids haven’t been let. The glass will be one of the last bid packages put out because it will be the glass that finishes the 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.

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