Members of the National Audubon Society are crying foul on the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) over designs for the team’s new stadium, which is set to host the Super Bowl in 2018. Although the sports organization and the bird-advocacy nonprofit had been discussing bird-safe designs – and using bird-friendly glass in particular – the Vikings’ camp called off talks this week, deciding not to go through with funding for the special glass.
According to a report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institution, up to 988 million birds are killed each year in the United States by collisions with buildings, mostly from flying into windows.
The new stadium will have almost 200,000 square feet of glass. Nice for sports fans, not so nice for birds.
“We’re talking about a billion dollar stadium here, and the cost to save perhaps thousands of migratory birds – and make the Vikings a global leader in green stadium design – is about one-10th of 1 percent of that,” said Audubon Minnesota Executive Director Matthew Anderson. “Hundreds of millions of dollars of public money is going to build this stadium, and we know the people of Minnesota do not want their money killing birds. The Vikings recently approved spending millions and millions of additional dollars to make sure the stadium is ‘iconic’ – surely they also want to make sure it’s not a death trap. We’re asking them to change their minds and do the right thing.”
As part of Audubon’s Bird Safe/Lights Out program, Audubon workers have found more than 125 species of native migratory birds that have fatally crashed into windows in the Twin Cities since 2007. The area is part of an avian migration corridor along the Mississippi River. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been encouraging the team to implement bird-safe designs in the new stadium, and a special committee of the Minneapolis City Council specifically advised that the structure incorporate Audubon’s recommendations to use special glazing techniques and site lighting.
Audubon staff had been meeting with the stadium developers since May 2013. The next meeting was scheduled to take place before July 15, when the decision on glass was slated for finalization. The meeting was canceled; Audubon staff were told on July 17 that there would be no change in the stadium glass choice to protect birds, according to a news release from the nonprofit.
The Vikings issued a statement to USA Today’s For the Win, saying that while they are considering lighting design and will implement lighting operational procedures, “when possible,” they won’t be springing for the bird-saving glass, citing rising construction costs and a limited budget.
“We are grateful that the MSFA will be incorporating some of our recommendations regarding lighting design and operations, but lighting is just one part of the problem” said Joanna Eckles, bird-friendly communities manager for Audubon Minnesota. “The huge expanses of glass, especially facing a new park, are a real cause for concern. Our request was that they meet either the state requirement or the nationally recognized LEED standard for bird safety. In the end, they did neither.”
See the new design in this virtual tour of the stadium in the video below:
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