Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY

Sports Facilities Authority to collect bird-death data at Minnesota Vikings’ stadium

The Vikings, U.S. Bank building manager SMG and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority are looking to address the issue of bird strikes at U.S.Bank Stadium.

Last week, U.S. Bank Stadium made national headlines, as a report released by three activist groups – Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary – claimed that migratory birds using the Mississippi Flyway were dying in record numbers due to the optical illusions created by the glass façade on the north side of the stadium.

On Wednesday, Minnesota Vikings Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley addressed the issue on 1390TheFan radio, stating that an announcement is expected tomorrow about the launch of a legitimate investigation into the number of bird strikes that will take place during the spring and autumn migration seasons.

To date, almost all of the coverage of the story has centered on splashy headlines calling the stadium a “Death Trap” for birds. That comes despite top estimates being that approximately 500 small migratory birds would die over the next three years – roughly the three-year death count of one self-respecting feral cat in a rural Minnesota barn.

Bagley said the stadium operators, the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority have taken the claims seriously, but they need to be investigated with a clear methodology, not facts that don’t have science providence.

“It’s a serious issue,” Bagley said. “It needs to be evaluated scientifically. That’s what is about to occur.”

The stories last week focused on numbers that were virtually impossible to empirically back up. The numbers don’t jibe with what the stadium operator and the security company that operates U.S. Bank Stadium believe and, for more than two years, the Vikings and the MSFA have earmarked money to commission a study to chart and react accordingly to the findings.

“What we heard from this sort of rogue group of activists was an anecdotal, non-scientific study saying we found all these birds, it’s a travesty, etc.,” Bagley said. “We heard all that. But, we work directly with SMG and Monterrey Security, who are in that building 24/7/365. They have seen no evidence of any of those numbers that this group reported.”

Bagley pointed out that neither the building manager nor the security firm’s opinions on the issue are scientifically based, which is why the MSFA is expected to announce tomorrow that an official study will be commissioned to come up with more scientifically-sound data.

“Admittedly, SMG and Monterrey, that is also anecdotal information,” Bagley said. “What we’ve agreed to do over the last couple of years that is finally being launched – it will be announced, I think, on Friday at the MSFA board meeting – is this agreement between the stadium authority and Audubon Minnesota, a legitimate group that’s got the science and scientific evaluators. [It’s] a program that will take a look at what’s happening.”

In the end, the MSFA, SMG and the Vikings are going to try to find a way to use innovation and technology to tackle the challenge of having a high-tech building finding a way to coexist with the nature around it and, in the end, meet the goal of trying to prevent as many bird deaths as possible and avoid the “death trap” moniker with which the stadium has been labeled.

“The bottom line is they’ll take a look at what’s happening at the building, compare it to what’s happening at other buildings and, if there is something that needs to be addressed, then they will make recommendations – all based on science and evidence, not anecdotal hysteria,” Bagley said. “We’ve agreed, let’s study it, let’s see what’s up and, if there is something up, let’s address it.”

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