New roof could mean better acoustics for the Metrodome

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February 14, 2011 // UPDATED 3:09 pm - February 24, 2011
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
EAST DOWNTOWN — On Feb. 24, in a basement bunker of a dining hall located just off a Metrodome loading dock, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC) engineer Steve Maki fielded questions about the Dome’s roof repair as part of a community luncheon sponsored by the East Downtown Council.

There were bits of news: Replacing the roof, which will require installing 10 fresh acres of air-supported fabric, will most likely cost $25 million — about $6 million more than originally expected. The chosen contractor for the project will be announced on Feb. 25, and the MSFC still expects its insurance company, FM Global, to cover all expenses.

But what caught the attention of the lunch crowd was an unexpected benefit of the repair job: The project will leave the Dome with better concert acoustics.

According to Maki, the MSFC found “lots of little things” it could do structurally, as part of the larger roof project, to improve the Dome experience without affecting the total cost.

One of these involved doing away with the Dome’s current acoustic controls: inner liners that hang down from the roof’s central, diamond-shaped panels. Instead, Maki called for “vertical batting” to be installed, which could help lessen the Dome’s notoriously jarring reverberation.

“The acoustics of the space have always been a problem,” said Maki. He cited an infamous Bob Dylan/Grateful Dead concert in June of 1986 — when the Dome was only four years old — that drew vitriolic complaints from fans about sound quality and a stream of letters demanding refunds.

“We got panned on that,” Maki said, though he insisted that the sound guys should share some of the blame. He said that later concerts by Pink Floyd and U2 went much more smoothly.

According to the MSFC, over half a million people have attended concerts in the Metrodome. Acts have included the Rolling Stones, Metallica, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Faith no More and Paul McCartney. These days, though, bookers prefer the smaller Target Center, where R&B star Usher will perform on May 21.

Asked if the fixes might help the Dome compete for Downtown concerts — a possible revenue source should the Vikings take up residence elsewhere — Maki demurred.

“Whether that means we’re getting the Stones back here, that’s a totally different decision,” he said.