Despite Mpls pressure, Vikings, MSFA still pleading poverty on bird-safe glass

The new Vikings stadium will feature about 200,000 square feet of glass, and the Audubon Society says birds won't be able to see any of it.

The new Vikings stadium will feature about 200,000 square feet of glass, and the Audubon Society says birds won't be able to see any of it.

UPDATE: The Audubon Society delivered a petition to Governor Dayton with 77,000 signatures in hopes of winning the Vikings v. birds stadium debate in late August 2014 to no avail. However, in spring of 2015, the issue of bird safety came up yet again when the Vikings revealed plans to sell personalized bricks at the stadium. Twitter users had a field day coming up with scathing messages for the bricks, including a few bird-themed ones.

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Vikings and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority to spend the money it would take to bird-proof the new Vikings stadium.

"Upgrading to bird-safe glass would add an estimated $1.1 million to the cost of the stadium, or 0.1% of the overall project budget of over $975 million," the resolution says.

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Here's another way to make the same point: The Vikings spent roughly $3 million on quarterback Josh Freeman last year and got a nationally televised one-night-only dumpster fire in return. What's $1 million compared to that?

Here's the full resolution:

City Council resolution

Last month, the Minnesota Audubon Society said officials from the MSFA and Vikings pulled out of talks the Audubon Society hoped would result in the installation of special glass with lots of small dots that signal to birds they're approaching a hard surface. Officials from the team and stadium authority say they don't have a budget for it, with the authority expressing concern the bird-proof glass might affect the translucency of the structure.

We reached out to Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson yesterday and asked if the city council resolution could result in team officials looking a bit harder to try to find money for the special glass. Here's what he said in response:
As we communicated last week, we have met with representatives of the Audubon Society multiple times and have been working collaboratively to address concerns regarding bird safety. The Vikings and the MSFA have agreed to implement the recommended operational lighting procedures to prevent bird collisions, procedures that are currently used by many of the glass buildings in downtown Minneapolis. We are also discussing the Audubon's various recommendations regarding the lighting design for the stadium.
Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of the special bird-safe glass the Audubon Society believes is key to saving bird lives.

We also contacted MSFA spokesperson Jenn Hathaway to get her organization's thoughts on the City Council vote. To read about what she said, click to page two.

Hathaway directed us to an MSFA statement that says, "The new stadium design and budget were completed prior to conversations with the Audubon Society. The design was also completed prior to changes in state guidelines related to bird-safe glass."

The remark about state guidelines pertains to a law mandating bird protection measures for all projects that receive state bonds. That law went into effect, however, after the new Vikings stadium deal was approved by the legislature in 2012.

In the statement, MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen is quoted as saying, "One of the design goals was to create a building that was more connected and integrated with the community than the Metrodome had been. The ability to see in and out of the stadium was what led us to the design that included the ETFE roof and operable doors on the downtown facing wall."

But "while the stadium design and budget will not accommodate the fritted glass being proposed, we will adopt the Audubon Society's operational guidelines to protect birds used by the many downtown office and residential buildings that have large glass exteriors," Kelm- Helgen continues.

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.