A massive arena with an outdoor stadium feel

By
March 31, 2016 14:41
4 minute read.
Minnesota Vikings

Bank Stadium aerial view. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The uneven-shaped US Bank Stadium emerges from downtown Minneapolis like a jagged ice formation jutting out from a frozen Minnesota lake. Or, at least, that is what the angular symmetry of the building – according to its designers – is meant to conjure up.

Huge ice cube or not, the new stadium that will officially open in July with all the bells and whistles a 21st century stadium has to offer, is quite a building.

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US football stadiums have gone through many different phases over the last century. First there were the neoclassical, open stadiums, like Soldier Field in Chicago. Then came the closed dome stadiums, like the Astrodome in Houston. Then stadiums with retractable roofs, like Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. And now comes US Bank Stadium with the latest stadium flavor-of-the-month, a translucent fixed roof to let the sunshine in, and huge doors to let the breeze in – when desired.

Walk into the purple-seated stadium and you feel like you have walked into an arena, despite its mammoth size and 66,200-seat capacity.

This is made possible by two key architectural elements. The first is a covered roof, half of which is transparent, using a material called ETFE that allows the stadium to be washed in natural light. And the second element consists of the massive glass doors to the west – in fact, the largest glass doors on the planet, that reach up to 29 meters tall and extend 17 meters across – and can be opened to let that fresh, cold Minnesota air give the crowd that outdoors feeling.

You feel like you are inside, because when the doors are closed you are in a climate-controlled environment. But it also seems like you are outside because you can see the outside: If you look up you can see the heavens, and if you look west through the massive doors you can see the Minneapolis skyline.

One unique feature of that skyline are the 16 kilometers of skyways which link building to building, making it possible in the Minneapolis winters to walk around downtown without having to go outside. Those downtown buildings, including the major hotels, will be linked by skyways to the stadium by the time it hosts the Super Bowl in 2018.

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The Minnesota Vikings football club, justifiably proud of its new home, flew about a dozen journalists from the traditional and niche press, as well as blogs, to the Twin Cities last month to take a peek at the new stadium in its final stages of construction.

They came from Architecture Today and AP and Busted Coverage and Complex-Sports and Maxim and Delta Sky Magazine and a Spanish-language American wire service.

Each reporter, obviously, focused on what they felt was of interest to their readers.

The architecture writers, it is assumed, will focus on the architectural uniqueness of the building. The writer for an environmental blog will focus on the building’s sustainability, and how to keep birds from meeting their end by flying into the massive glass doors. The cool sports blogs will focus on the club spaces and suites available for parties. The local Minnesota press will highlight the price; the travel magazine will see the stadium as an anchor for a Minneapolis-destination story; and The Jerusalem Post will look for the Jewish and Israeli angle (see main story).

One striking feature about the building is the sheer speed in which it was built. Although it took some 12 years to get the idea through the state legislature, accompanied by a bruising public battle over the percentage of the cost that would be carried by the taxpayers versus the percentage to be borne by the team owners, once the green light was given it took only 31 months to build the structure. At its peak, 1,400 workers labored simultaneously on the site.

The cost of the building – on the site of the demolished Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which it replaced – is staggering. While the Metrodome cost $55 million to build in 1982, this one’s estimated cost is now $1.1 billion, and rising.

At the same time, the Metrodome had 435 restrooms, this one 979; where the old one had 1,292 feet of scoreboards, this one has 12,560; and while the Metrodome had 231 fixed concessions stands, US Bank Stadium has 336 (though not one that is kosher); and on and on and on.

It has escalators and elevators and Internet throughout the building, retractable seats for baseball, room for 6,000 additional seats for Super Bowls, six club lounges where, if so desired, one could get married while the Vikings play, and an app that can guide fans from their homes via the city’s highways to their seats. The app also allows you to order Coke and peanuts directly to your seat.

Outside the stadium there will be massive replica of a Viking ship with a mast, doubling as a huge video screen, and the eyes in the dragon’s head at the ship’s bow glowing purple. A four-block park is being built from the stadium toward the city center, and some $1b has already been invested in building businesses and residences around the stadium and park, something that stands to dramatically revitalize downtown Minneapolis.

Mark Wilf, an owner and the president of the Vikings, said that when his family bought the team in 2005, it had three goals: to win a championship, provide the Vikings fans with the “best fan experience,” and be a positive community advocate.

While goal No. 1 has yet to be realized, and goal No. 3 is in the eyes of the beholder, the new stadium places Wilf well on track of being able to check off goal No. 2: providing fans with a memorable game-day experience.

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