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Metrodome Roof Can’t Be Repaired in Time for Vikings-Bears Game

The Metrodome’s roof is more damaged than initially thought, forcing the Minnesota Vikings to turn to the University of Minnesota in a bid to keep their game against the Chicago Bears in Minneapolis.

Repairs to the inflatable structure that caved in under the weight of 17 inches (43 centimeters) of snow three days ago won’t be completed in time for the Dec. 20 National Football League game, the stadium’s owner said last night.

The Vikings are working with the University of Minnesota to get their TCF Bank Stadium ready for the nationally televised Monday Night Football game.

“It was impossible to get it repaired in time,” Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Metrodome, said in a phone interview.

TCF Bank Stadium is about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the Metrodome. The open-air arena was completed in July 2009 at a cost of $288.5 million and holds 50,805 spectators. The Metrodome capacity is about 64,000 for football games.

“Preparation of the stadium is fully under way and university officials have told us they’ll make every reasonable effort to ensure the stadium will be ready for Monday night,” the Vikings said last night in an e-mailed statement.

The collapse of the Metrodome roof resulted in the Vikings’ game scheduled for Dec. 12 against the New York Giants being delayed a day and moved to Ford Field in Detroit.

New York won 21-3 to ensure the Vikings will miss the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. The game also marked the end of Vikings quarterback Brett Favre’s National Football League record 297 consecutive starts because he was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Not Enough Time

The University of Minnesota said its stadium couldn’t stage the Giants game because it would have taken five or six days to become operational after being shut down for the winter after the Gophers’ last game of the season on Nov. 27.

“There were a lot of other issues, like the snow on the field there, the college hash marks not the pro hash marks, and they didn’t have instant replay capability,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in a Dec. 12 conference call with reporters.

Workers from Amherst, New York-based Birdair Inc., which manufactured and installed the Metrodome roof, and Geiger Berger Associates, who designed the structure, were aiming to repair the existing panels as a stop-gap.

That isn’t possible because the roof has become concave since collapsing and the snow that collected in the center has turned into a 4-foot-thick block of ice, Lester said.

“The cables are holding it, but we’ve got to work out how to get rid of it before we can replace the torn panels,” he said. “That ain’t so easy in a Minnesota winter.”

Lester couldn’t give cost estimates for replacing the damaged panels and said the owner may know within three days how long the work will take.

‘Extremely Disappointed’

“We’re extremely disappointed with the results of the assessment and the time it will take to replace the panels,” Roy Terwilliger, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said in an e-mailed statement last night. “When the repairs are completed and the Metrodome is re-inflated, we will have a facility that is in every respect safe and capable of full operations.”

The commission will bear financial responsibility for work on the roof, which is composed of 10 acres of Teflon-coated fiberglass.

Birdair suggested in July that the commission begin planning for replacement of the roof fabric, a process the company said would take five years and cost between $12 million and $15 million. The stadium has no debt and cash reserves of $14 million or $15 million, Terwilliger said in a Dec. 13 interview.

Metrodome Replacement

The commission last year unveiled plans for an $870 million replacement for the Metrodome. The Vikings’ lease runs through the end of next season.

The Metrodome roof deflated 48 days after first being inflated in October 1981 because of snow. While the structure has had tears since then, the only previous event to be postponed because of snow was a Major League Baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and California Angels in April 1983, the stadium owner said. The Twins moved to the new $545 million outdoor Target Field in April.

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