Vikings need a home

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Paul Levy
Thursday, December 16, 2010
— Questions swirled Wednesday around how the Vikings will pull off their first outdoor home game since 1981, even as owner Zygi Wilf and a University of Minnesota official voiced confidence that Monday’s contest will take place at still-snow-covered TCF Bank Stadium.

The challenges ranged from the massive task of shoveling and thawing the University of Minnesota site to the prospect of more snow to the math problem of having 64,000 ticket holders and a stadium with 50,000 seats.

Meanwhile, the Metrodome, whose roof collapsed during last weekend’s snowstorm, suffered another blow Wednesday evening when a fourth panel of the roof ripped, likely due to the heavy ice and snow that still blankets much of the deflated dome, said Patrick Milan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

No one was injured, but all repair work was suspended until officials could evaluate the new damage this morning.

Scott Ellison, associate athletic director at the University of Minnesota, said the National Football League “is on board” with plans to play the game at TCF stadium. “I would say there will be a game here Monday night,” he said.

In Dallas, where he was attending league meetings, Wilf told reporters that he is “confident” and “optimistic” the game will be played at TCF.

“A lot of people are working very hard to get it done, but we want to assure the fans in the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota that we’re going to have a game in Minnesota,” Wilf said. “I look forward to being back outdoors the way I was always used to watching games and enjoying games.”

“That’s the plan,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. But Aiello added, “The plan last week at this time was to play in the dome.”

About 150 paid shovelers were doing their best to remove snow at the Gophers’ stadium and get it ready after the Metrodome roof collapse forced the Vikings to move their most recent home game to Detroit.

On Tuesday, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the team would play its final home game this season “at home, in front of our fans.”

As of Wednesday evening, the ticket issues were unresolved. Efforts to reach Bagley were unsuccessful.

Ellison said additional bleachers could be placed in the west end of TCF Bank Stadium, but he didn’t know how many additional fans could be accommodated.

A related issue is luxury suites. TCF Bank Stadium has 38—the Metrodome has 115—and their owners have the right of first refusal for any events staged at the two-year-old stadium. That means that suite owners can attend Monday’s game even if they hadn’t bought tickets for the contest at the Metrodome.

Ticket uncertainty weighed on Joe Taylor, who said he has driven six hours from Moline, Ill., each of the past six years to watch his beloved Bears play the Vikings in Minneapolis.

“My wife and I thought we had great seats for this game,” Taylor said. “Now, I don’t know what to do.”

Alcohol ban?

Also unknown is whether beer will be sold at the game. Ellison couldn’t say. Alcohol is not served at the stadium during Gophers games and there are no beer taps.

ESPN is scheduled to televise the Bears-Vikings game, and on Wednesday, ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer said: “We continue to make arrangements and move ahead with our plans for this week’s Monday Night Football game at TCF Bank Stadium.”

Reports have surfaced that, should the stadium not be ready, Indianapolis has offered the use of Lucas Oil Stadium, and Atlanta is a possible option.

Ice beneath snow

For Vikings and NFL executives who toured the stadium Wednesday and said they were optimistic, the frigid field was the primary concern. Beneath the snow is a coating of ice—a matter of concern to the NFL Players Union.

Once the snow is removed from the playing surface—expected by Sunday, Ellison said—heaters would be placed over the field and then covered by a tarp. The NFL, which said it was “pleased with the condition of the field,” may supply a chemical compound that will aid in breaking down the ice, Ellison said.

But first the snow must vanish. The university is seeking workers, 18 and older, to shovel snow for $10 per hour, to be paid by the Vikings, Ellison said. That’s more than the $8 an hour people in Green Bay are being paid this week to shovel snow at Lambeau Field.

Would-be shovelers interested in joining the TCF crews can call 612-626-4110.

Among the snow shovelers at TCF Bank Stadium on Wednesday were seamstress Ashley Furseth, 26, of Roseville, who said she could use “the extra cash for Christmas,” and stagehand Lucas Benson, 27, of Rochester, a Packers fan.

Workers shoveled through the aisles, blew white powder off seats and moved snow down three gigantic slides -from the stands and onto the field, where it was loaded onto trucks and moved to St. Paul.

“I love the Vikings and would do it for free,” said Nicholas Dancy, 24, of St. Paul. “I just want to see them play their final home game in Minnesota.”

University officials had initially considered seeking volunteers, but rejected that plan Wednesday afternoon.

Twenty-six truckloads of snow were removed and transported to the university’s St. Paul campus Tuesday, Ellison said. TCF said it planned to deliver 700 shovels to the stadium Thursday morning.

About the Metrodome

Workers who have been working 24/7 on repairing the Metrodome were on the floor Wednesday night when the fourth panel collapsed, sending snow and ice crashing to the turf again.

The panel was located in a different area than the other three panels that tore Sunday. Milan said officials won’t know yet how this will affect the overall repair efforts, “it just means there’s one more.”

Four or five feet of ice still covers some of the roof and officials can’t be certain other panels won’t fail, Milan said.

“It’s hard to rule out anything,” he said. “The roof’s been through stress. It’s a massive, dangerous operation.”

Last updated: 3:49 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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