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Vikes stadium unveiling: Expect ‘modernistic’ design with ‘outdoor feel’

Possible development plans for nearby area include two office towers, apartments, green space and a major plaza.

A rendering of the interior of a proposed Vikings stadium from HKS Inc. The official design will be unveiled May 13 at the Guthrie Theater.
Courtesy of HKS

When plans for the Vikings football stadium are unveiled Monday evening, expect to see “a modernistic” stadium with a fixed roof, but sliding panels at each end of the stadium that can be opened to give fans “an outdoor feel.”

Ambitious development plans for the areas around the stadium still are in various stages of negotiations. But Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said developers are working with a number of companies about building nearby. Those projects would require the purchase and demolition of the adjacent Star Tribune building.

According to one source, Wells Fargo has a plan to build two towers near the stadium with about 1 million square feet of space. Some of that space would be for its expanded mortgage operations.

Apartments and green space also would be part of the Wells Fargo development.

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A major plaza and a large parking ramp all are part of the grand multi-use development plans that would stretch from the stadium to the Hennepin County jail on Fifth Street.

No public subsidies would be involved in these projects, Rybak said.

The development, in the mayor’s mind, is vital to the success of the stadium project, but plans that requires infrastructure change are creating some dicey issues.

Hennepin County commissioners, for example, have expressed disapproval of some plans that have called for eliminating Park and Portland avenues in the new stadium neighborhood.

Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat points out that the Hennepin County Medical Center will be a neighbor of the stadium and the development that is expected to spring up around it.

In his view and that of other county commissioners, blocking off major thoroughfares near a major metro emergency hospital is not a wise thing to do.

Plans for the $1 billion stadium are being held fairly close to the vest.

For example, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the Senate lead on the Vikings stadum bill a year ago, had not seen plans for the stadium as of Monday.

“I’ve been told it’s going to be modernistic,” she said.

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What’s the place going to look like? 

“Some people will look at it and see one thing — others will see something else,” Rybak said. “It’s like looking at a cloud. Some people look at a cloud and see the Virgin Mary, some see something entirely different.” 

 Rybak and other sources said they believe the idea of sliding panels at each end of the stadium are more cost-effective than a retractable roof. 

“On a hot day in Minnesota, we don’t take the roof off our homes,” Rybak said. “We go catch the breeze on our porch or on our decks.”

A 65,000-seat porch may sound pleasant to some, although it’s probably a good idea to remember that sweet-sounding plans sometimes don’t work out so well. 

Remember, when the Metrodome first opened, designers said air conditioning would not be needed because sitting in the dome on a hot summer day would be like sitting in the shade of a big tree. In reality, it was like sitting in an oven.

Air conditioning was added in 1984, two years after the facility opened.

If the new stadium does have a fixed roof, the possibility of installing a natural-turf playing surface would seemingly be eliminated, which could possibly lead to future dilemmas.

The high rates of injuries in football have increasingly come under the microscope, and most studies have shown there are fewer types of most injuries when the violent game is played on a natural surface.  

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The high number of injuries — especially head injuries — is leading a growing number of people to question whether football has a viable future.  Even if the pro game remains popular, will injuries followed by lawsuits at the high school and college levels slowly cut off pro football’s roots?

And if pro football goes into decline, will the new stadium be viable for international-level soccer?

Under terms of the agreement, Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf have the right of first refusal to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to the stadium for the first five years after it opens in 2016. Currently, MLS wants its league games played in open-air stadiums and,  preferably, on natural turf.

In the MLS, four teams of 16 teams currently play on artificial surfaces, and the Vancouver franchise plays in a retractable-roof stadium. Vancouver games frequently are played with the roof closed, according to Dan Courtemanche, MLS executive vice president of communications.

For his part, Opat believes that MLS, which does not enjoy the popularity of other pro sports leagues, would “be happy to play anywhere they can have a team drawing 20,000 people on a regular basis.”

Of course, at this point, pro football is king, and anything to do with pro football can’t be done in an understated way. The unveiling of the stadium schematic will be held Monday night at the Guthrie Theatre.

 Just 200 (no charge) tickets will be available to the public. Those tickets will be given out, one to a customer, on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 5 p.m. Monday at Gate B of the Metrodome.