The Minnesota Vikings have played warm, dry and wind-free football at the Metrodome for 29 seasons. This weekend, a snowstorm sent them searching for cover — namely a place to play their game against the New York Giants.
The Metrodome's inflatable roof ripped open and collapsed early Sunday after 17 inches of snow fell on the city, forcing the NFL to shift the Giants-Vikings game to Detroit's Ford Field on Monday night.
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission chairman Roy Terwilliger said he's optimistic the roof can be repaired in time for the Vikings to host the Chicago Bears in their next scheduled home game on Monday, Dec. 20. There's a lot of work to be done before then, considering the scene inside the darkened stadium on Sunday morning after the collapse about 5 a.m.
Snow fell onto the artificial turf through a gaping hole above the 30-yard-line, as a piece of the Teflon-coated fiberglass roof roughly 10 yards long flapped in the wind. It glowed eerily in the sunlight, hovering not too far above the field. Speakers that hang from the roof were still safely above the seats and the field, with no indication that a collapse with people inside would've caused any injuries.
MSFC director of facilities and engineering Steve Maki was working with the original manufacturer of the material on a plan to fix the roof. It has failed four times due to heavy snow since the stadium opened nearly 30 years ago, but not since April 1983, when a collapse forced postponement of a Twins baseball game. Terwilliger said this was the worst of the collapses.
"This just came very fast. It was heavily loaded, and the wind was just unbelievable," said Maki, who halted snow removal and called his workers down from the roof Saturday night out of concern for safety.
"There were no injuries, which we're thankful for," said Bill Lester, the MSFC's executive director.
The game between the Vikings and Giants had already been postponed by 31 hours, after Saturday's blizzard kept the Giants from getting to Minneapolis on time. They stayed the night in Kansas City instead and left for Detroit.
"I have to believe there will be some losses. I think it also bolsters their argument why they need a new stadium," Giants chief executive and co-owner John Mara said. "For this to happen nowadays is pretty incredible."
The Vikings have been lobbying for legislative support for a new facility for more than a decade. Their lease at the Metrodome runs through the 2011 season.
The Vikings previously pledged roughly one-third of the cost for a new stadium, estimated at $700 million or far more. But the team has had difficulty getting much traction with the state legislature on public funding to pay for the rest, with lawmakers pointing to huge state deficits that need to be addressed first.
The team has been contacted by two Los Angeles-based groups interested in bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles, but so far it has said it remains "committed to finding a solution in Minnesota."
The NFL briefly considered moving the game to the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, but the university said it couldn't be ready in time. TCF holds about 50,000 people, compared to the Metrodome's 64,000.
The city got 17.1 inches of snow during the storm that started Friday night and ended around 10 p.m. Saturday, said James McQuirter, a National Weather Service meteorologist. He said the storm was one of the five largest to hit the Twin Cities. Some surrounding communities got more than 21 inches of snow, he said.
The Metrodome roof is 10 acres of Teflon-coated fiberglass that is supported by 20 90-horsepower fans. It weighs roughly 580,000 pounds.
AP Sports Writers Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Tom Canavan in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.