By Andy Mannix
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Number 10: Tore up from the floor up
When the Dome hosted the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 1989, officials were eager to make a good impression in the hopes of landing the Final Four within the next few years.
Instead, it was a near disaster. On the morning before the game was to begin, NCAA reps were having a look-see on the condition of the temporary court installed for the tourney. What they saw wasn't good.
"The varnish on the court was coming up all over the place, peeling like an onion," says Lester. "We mopped it with just about any substance we could find. I don't think it helped much."
The games went on—with nary a mention of the floor problem—but NCAA officials were reportedly disappointed with the way the Dome and the U of M handled the event. In the end, though, the ill will dissipated, and the Final Four indeed came to the Metrodome three years later.
Number 9: The Sweatrodome
In a moment of true Scando-Minnesota frugality, the Dome opened without air conditioning. While attendance was already nose-diving during the pathetic 1982 Twins season, the notion that fans would have to sit in what amounted to a Teflon sauna didn't help ticket sales.
By July 1983, air conditioning came into use, leading to an endless supply of conspiracy theories that the staff flips a switch to benefit the home team: blowers on when the opposing team bats, blowers off when the Twins are at the plate. "There have been these theories and studies to show that we help the Twins," says Dennis Alfton, who has served as the Dome's director of operations since day one. "That was not the case. We wouldn't ever be able to get to that point of trying to change the outcome of a game."
Number 8: Burning Man
During its second year of operation, the Dome was already holding monster-truck rallies and tractor pulls, but nothing quite like the Motocross event that saw a man catch fire. "There was this kid from Argentina who was going to do a major jump over something, off a ramp," Lester says. "They were going to light him on fire and send him through the air."
Unfortunately, crews had built a safety wall out of cardboard boxes and hay. "So he goes to the top of the ramp, gets lit, makes the jump, crashes right into the boxes, which catch on fire, everything's on fire," Lester says. "They put it out, and he was fine, but they were going to have him speak to the crowd afterward, and all he could really do was wave a little bit and say, 'I gotta go.'"
Number 7: Gophers' less than golden moments
With the exception of some Wisconsin and Iowa rivalry games, Gopher football at the Dome has nearly always been a losing proposition—both on the scoreboard and in the stands. But one moment during the disastrous second season stands out. The Number one-rated Nebraska Cornhuskers came to the Hump and squeaked by our Goofers by the razor-thin margin of 84-13.
Nearly 20 years later, the 2003 squad started the season 6-0, giving fans a reason to believe that the chronically underperforming Gopher football program was finally on the rebound. Then Michigan came to town. Initially, the Gophers were on the march, building a 21-point lead going into the fourth quarter. But in the biggest gridiron meltdown in Dome history, the Gopher defense gave up 31 fourth-quarter points, eventually ceding victory to the Wolverines 38-35. The Gophers dropped two more crucial games and ended the season 10-3, leading no less a Gopher apologist than Sid Hartman to concede that the staggering loss prevented "the Gophers from creating the interest needed to fill the Metrodome and stop fan apathy."
Number 6: Dylan and the Dead
It had all the makings of a historic show: Two of the biggest names in 1960s rock, pairing up and coming to the Dome for the venue's inaugural concert in 1986. To top it off, Dylan was backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Problem was, nobody thought much about the acoustics of the stadium. As it turned out, unless you were on the field directly in front of the stage, all you could hear was screeching, gelatinous noise.
"Oh God, after the complaints about the acoustics, we didn't think we would ever have a show here again," Lester recalls.
Number 5: Vikings stink up the field, Dome stinks up the stands
The debut of Coach Brad Childress came to an anticlimactic halt at the end of the 2006 season with a loss to the St. Louis Rams. Then the Dome registered its displeasure: The toilets in one men's room backed up.
"Not only did our team complete the season with 8 out of 10 losses in an uninspiring pounding by the Rams," says Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president for public affairs and stadium development, "but there was a flood in the concourse where water was running into and down the steps of the press box, and into the suites on the east side of the Metrodome, including the owners' suite."
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