Metrodome collapse: Scientific American dissects obsolete design

Worth repairing?

Worth repairing?

Snowmageddon collapsed the Metrodome, and now the deadly cold weather of late is stymieing an effort to assess the damage and get a plan in place for having it shipshape for the Vikings this fall.

There's a chance that it may not be ready for preseason football on time. The company doing the repairs may not have enough of the right materials on hand when the time comes.

Maybe we should go to plan B now.


Scientific American is out with a long look at pressurized-roof stadiums like the Vikings' home, and its conclusion should raise red flags about the worth of the repairs.

The dome's roof weighs about 265 metric tons. The magazine crunched some numbers and figured out that the snow that blanketed it after the Dec. 11-12 blizzard weighed more than six times that.

With a roof made of fabric similar to that used in trampolines, it's not hard to envision why 43 centimeters of snow tore through Minneapolis's Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome last month. What is perhaps harder to imagine is why anyone would consider keeping in place an inflatable domed stadium that most engineers agree is antiquated.
The Metrodome is the only active air-pressurized stadium still used by an NFL team, and, in fairness, once the Vikings have a new home, it'll likely be the last. The team's owners have stated a preference for an open-air field so we can cheer al-fresco the way we did in their loss to the Bears at TCF Bank Stadium last December.

Pro sports teams wanting indoor venues long ago started moving on to hybrid structures, or ditching domes altogether in favor of fixed or retractable roofs. Even the man who claimed the patent on the concept of pressurized domes, David Geiger, knew that the technology would become obsolete over time, the magazine says.

It's also expensive to maintain, and dangerous. Steve Maki, the Metrodome facilities manager, describes in the piece how his team manages the roof during storms--and why he had to pull crews off the roof during the blizzard to avoid a disaster.

Workers trying to melt the snow blanketing the Metrodome were ordered away because it was too dangerous.

Workers trying to melt the snow blanketing the Metrodome were ordered away because it was too dangerous.

"I can tell you the conditions were the worst I'd ever seen," he says. "We followed all the procedures and processes we've devised and expanded on over time, [but] the situation was too unsafe, so I pulled our people off the roof."

Gov. Mark Dayton has named Ted Mondale to lead the MSFC and reach a deal with the Legislature and the Vikings' owners to build a new stadium and keep the team in Minnesota.

In the meantime, the commission is aiming to have the Metrodome roof repaired or replaced by August, at a cost of $15 million.