This image is among Stan Korista's favorities
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby"
While oft-bemoaned by fans and forever a bridesmaid among its stadium peers, the Metrodome has well-served its purpose since opening in 1982. It stands as the only stadium in the world to have hosted the Super Bowl, an All Star game, two World Series, a Final Four and a Special Olympics. From a purely baseball vantage (considering result before aesthetic) the Dome has hosted the Twins to the aforementioned World Series', coupled with four additional playoff appearances.
This summer, the Twins last in the Dome before moving to Target Field, I'll occasionally revisit this history. For my first entry, I recently spent some time speaking with the good Mr. Stan Korista of the international architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the lead design firm for the stadium. Mr. Korista has been affiliated with SOM for the last 44 years, and was the Senior Structural Engineer on the Metrodome project. At present, he serves as a consultant to the company after recently retiring as Director of Structural Engineering. He was kind enough to reflect on his Metrodome work of nearly 30 years ago herein; this is a portion of our conversation:
Judd Spicer: What were some of your first impressions when engineering the Metrodome project?
Stan Korista: One of the questions here was how to do the stadium for multiple sports; to get the seating they wanted to have for football and baseball - which of course is a lot easier to say than do. Say, at the Astrodome in Houston, they tried going with a circular design for baseball and football and the impression was that the seating didn't work out as well as possible. So we went with the more oval shape, and we talked about that configuration at great length with both the MLB and NFL - both entities had people constantly monitoring our progress throughout.
J.S.: What were among the biggest challenges in overseeing the project?
S.K.: The time period in which to complete the project and all the construction was a challenge - we had about two years between first digging on the site and Opening Day 1982.All the systems had to be well coordinated. So we dug in the ground to create a bowl and create the lower seating, versus having to take time to form all those. Things like the fabric roof itself and the supporting cables - that was all fabricated off-site and then brought to the site; and we tried to do that with as many off-site fabricated pieces as possible, rather than putting everything together on-site as you might see with a typical steel or concrete building.
J.S.: Are there any instances of note that you remember during design or construction?
S.K.: We had that one instance where we were getting a little bit behind and the fabric roof was getting put in about September of '81. And there was some wet snow, which partially ripped the double fabric roof. From an engineering standpoint, it wasn't something to be un-anticipated because there was no hot air getting pushed through that double-fabric, because the mechanical systems hadn't gotten to the point of providing enough heat. Other than the fact that it had to be fixed, the incident was actually a positive thing because everyone was worried that if the Dome was ripped or popped like a balloon, the whole thing would collapse on top of people. What it did show was that even if you had a major rip in this fabric, the cables wouldn't fall and the rest of the fabric would stay up even though air was being lost.
J.S.: The Metrodome is well reputed for both being completed on time, and on budget. Should there have been more unlimited funds with which to work, what might you have initially changed or pushed for?
S.K.: With more monies available, perhaps some could have gone to an alternate field surface - although I know that's been updated; the same could be said for some of the boxes and audience facilities, where, again, more funds were eventually spent. I think some of the teamareas were kind of sparse to begin with. And perhaps there could have been some change to the landscaping and stadium exterior pre-cast concrete panels . . . From a noise perspective, over time and using more money, indoor stadiums began trying for better acoustics. That's one of the things we've always heard about the Metrodome, the sound factor. Basically, it is efficiency and function that really drive stadiums -- and that part was done well, constructed well, and also on budget.
J.S.: Despite the fact that the Twins have had just a single home baseball postponement in almost 30 years of play, the Dome is oft-bemoaned locally as a baseball stadium. Having perhaps heard that yourself, may I inquire: do engineers have feelings too?
S.K.: I hope so. At that time, we were just kind of on the front end of pro sports teams again starting to build new stadiums -- certainly in the northern areas, where pro and college teamswere interested in enclosed stadiums. Obviously people wanted to have lesser costs, and that's sort of where the fabric roof was a very attractive thing from a cost perspective. But the Metrodome was really one of the most ambitious projects as far as trying to set up the shape, the field, and the seating to not only do baseball, but many other events. Maybe it was a little too ambitious, but I think it has served its purpose well.