Roof of Metrodome collapses under record snowfall

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December 6, 2010 // UPDATED 12:55 pm - December 13, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
You know it’s bad out there when the snow causes a stadium roof to collapse.

On Sunday morning, while the city of Minneapolis was still coping with blizzard conditions that brought over 17 inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 30 mph, the Teflon-coated fiberglass roof of the Metrodome tore open, dumping an avalanche of snow onto the 30 yard line of Mall of America Field. The storm was the fifth largest in the city’s history.

The day before the collapse, crews were on top of the roof using steam and hot water to melt the building snow. According to Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission chairman Roy Terwilliger, at 6 p.m. the crews were called down due to safety concerns. The heat inside the stadium was turned up, and hot air was channeled between the roof’s layers. But no snow melting measures were able to prevent the collapse.

It was the fourth roof failure in the 28-year history of the Metrodome. The last such incident occurred in April 1983, when a roof collapse forced the postponement of a Twins baseball game.

Sunday’s Vikings game against the New York Giants had already been pushed back 31 hours, as the blizzard kept the visiting team from arriving in Minneapolis. The Giants stayed the night in Kansas City. The game will take place tonight at Detroit’s indoor Ford Field. Kickoff time is 6:20 p.m., and the game will be televised on FOX.

Tickets to the game are free (at the Ford Field box office). Any Minnesota fans who held tickets for the Sunday game will be offered priority seating along the 50-yard line; those who can\'t make the trip will be given full refunds. TCF Bank Stadium, where the Golden Gophers play, has been shut down for the winter and so was not an option for tonight’s game.

Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC) chairman Roy Terwilliger told reporters he’s optimistic that the roof can be repaired in time for the Vikings’ next game against the Chicago Bears, schedule for Mon., Dec. 20.

The Wall Street Journal reports that management at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome has offered to ship a 10-year-old extra roof panel to the MSFC, who operates the Metrodome. Managing director Pete Sala says he also offered his expertise in inflating and deflating a dome, something he has done several times during his years operating the Syracuse stadium. The Carrier Dome roof sustained a weather-related tear in the 1990s.

Officials in Detroit have made similar offers.

The roof failure calls attention to the decade-long debate over whether the Vikings should have a new stadium built.

Terwilliger said that Sunday’s collapse “can’t help but call attention” to the Metrodome’s age. Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development Lester Bagley declined to comment on how the incident might affect the team’s push for a new stadium. The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expires at the end of the 2011 season. The team has said that they do not plan on renewing.