A team of engineers and workers undertook a major inspection of damage to the Metrodome's collapsed roof on Tuesday, as its owners faced a decision on whether to push ahead on repairs in an attempt to make the aging stadium usable for the next Minnesota Vikings game in just six days.
If the Dome is not ready for next Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears, the Vikings may play under a winter sky. The Teflon roof of the Metrodome collapsed early Sunday under the weight of heavy snow after a major blizzard struck the Twin Cities.
Roy Terwilliger, president of the Metrodome-owning Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said the University of Minnesota would be asked to prepare the school's roof-less TCF Bank Stadium in case the Metrodome can't be made ready in time.
"The Vikings would prefer to play in the Dome," Terwilliger said. "But we're working with the University of Minnesota and in essence we'll be on a dual track that would have TCF Bank Stadium ready in case the Metrodome isn't."
But Garry Bowman, director of athletic communications at the University of Minnesota, said that as of midday Tuesday the school was still waiting for a request to begin what he said would be the tall order of clearing tons of snow from inside the stadium. "If we're going to do it, we really need to get started yesterday," Bowman said. Given all the snow and other weather-related factors, it would likely take 5-6 days to prepare TCF for an NFL game, he said.
Inside the Metrodome on Tuesday, work crews were laying sheets of plywood on the field to keep it dry and using several hydraulic lifts as they began tearing down pieces of the torn roof. Pat Milan, spokesman for the Sports Facilities Commission, said that five experts from Birdair Inc., the Amhert, N.Y.-based contractor that built the roof, were in the process of a damage inspection and officials with the commission were expecting to have a set of options laid out for them later in the day.
"Everyone expects we will know where we're going by tonight," Milan said.
A Birdair inspection earlier this year found the roof's overall condition was "good," though it said that the inner lining of woven fiberglass — one of two layers that make up the roof — was dirty and in poor condition. Terwilliger said facilities officials at the Metrodome told his commission after the inspection that the roof had several more years left in it. The roof last gave way in April 1983 because of snow, forcing the postponement of a Minnesota Twins game.
While repairing the roof by Monday could amount to a daunting task, the university's Bowman said getting TCF Bank Stadium ready would also be a "huge" job. He said there are 20-inch-deep snow drifts throughout much of the facility, and much of it would have to be removed by workers with shovels rather than by plows that might damage the stadium's floors.
TCF Bank Stadium has a seating capacity of about 50,000 — about 13,000 fewer seats than are available at the Metrodome for football games.