The Minnesota Vikings have been in transition all year.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is learning on the job. Coach Mike Zimmer is shaping his new team’s mindset. Dave Mansell is making sure a 970-foot steel roof truss will be in place on time and within budget, along with tens of thousands of other tasks.
Whatever happens on the field this season and next will ultimately be a mere speck on the horizon of this franchise’s 54-year history. The stadium under construction, set for completion in the summer of 2016 as the next NFL venue to open, will become just as much of an icon for the Vikings as any player or coach.
With the Vikings playing a couple of miles away at the University of Minnesota, the modern-style stadium has begun to rise. It will feature giant glass front doors, a see-through roof and a sharp-angled asymmetrical shape not-so-vaguely resembling the ships that once carried the original Vikings across the seas of northern Europe.
The yet-to-be-named, 65,000-seat facility will look like nothing else in the league when it’s finished.
“When they walk through that bowl, they’re going to be like, ‘Holy wow,’” said Mansell, the general superintendent for Mortensen Construction, the local company hired to build the stadium over 1.75 million gross square feet with a total price tag of a bit over $1 billion.
Mansell managed construction for several other sports venues around town and around the country, at the request of Allen Troshinsky, the vice president of operations for Mortensen’s sports group. They have taken the plans devised by the architects led by Bryan Trubey at HKS in Dallas, the firm that designed AT&T Stadium for the Cowboys and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Colts.
These guys are used to big, high-tech and bold.
This one, though, is headed for the front of the portfolio.
“The job is just awesome. It sort of exceeds the experience that almost anybody working out here has ever had,” said John Wood, a Mortensen senior vice president who oversees the sports group. “It’s the biggest project ever built in the state of Minnesota, and so for almost all of us it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done in our careers.”
The blueprints Mansell and his seven lieutenants inherited came from Trubey and his team, the result of extensive cultural and climatological research.
This, after all is Minnesota, where the Vikings were forced out of their previous home at the end of the 2010 season following a massive snowstorm that toppled the Metrodome roof. All those fancy features are useless if the stadium isn’t functional through the winter.
The pitch of the roof will be steep so the snow doesn’t pile up. The peak will be more than 300 feet, about 30 stories, above the field. The building will be largely translucent to match the city’s pattern of design. The stadium will feature five 95-foot-tall pivoting glass doors facing the skyscrapers of the central business district and sunlight over the entire playing field. The south half of the roof will be built with the largest span of ETFE in the nation, a lightweight, glass-like substance formally called ethylene tetrafluoroethylene.
The multi-purpose facility, which will host the Super Bowl in 2018, also has landed the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four for 2019. In addition to college basketball, it also was designed to host major soccer, college baseball, concerts and any number of other events year round.
“A striking, modern, very progressive, edgy building,” Trubey said. “It’s a very future-oriented culture there.”
Before the future arrives, there is much work to be done. But not out of panic.
Mortensen’s on-time record has helped the company’s sports group flourish, with major venues in Denver, Kansas City, Memphis and many other locations beyond Minnesota. This is the result of careful, confident planning, ever more important with the standards of such buildings increasingly cutting edge and complicated.
“To try to rush it, it would only lead to safety and quality issues,” Troshinsky said. “So as often as you’re encouraging people forward, sometimes you’ve got to pull those reins back too so they don’t get ahead of their skis.”
Mansell’s workdays are often 12 hours. He’s a blunt-speaking busybody more comfortable next to machines than in meetings. Still, his hardhat sits idle on Sundays.
“We’re here to make a living to support our families and it doesn’t do us any good if we’re not with our families,” he said, adding: “We don’t plan these jobs seven days a week. When you go by these construction sites and they’re working seven days a week, I guarantee you it’s a train wreck.”
The number of workers on site these days is around 750. Many of them will come back to watch a game in a couple of years. Troshinsky and Mansell always enjoy opening days with their families, but they’re hardly regulars in the seats. Looking around can sometimes feel too much like work.
“We didn’t do it on our own, boy,” Mansell said. “It takes a lot of dedicated men and women showing up here every day to do the grind right alongside us.”
Career highs for Vikings stadium workers
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