Snow causes Metrodome cave-in

The Metrodome‘s roof collapsed early Sunday when three panels tore following heavy snowfall over the weekend.
The roof of the Metrodome collapsed early Sunday morning after heavy snowfall in Minneapolis. More than 17 inches of snow fell on the Twin Cities.
December 13, 2010

The Metrodome‘s roof collapsed early Sunday when three panels tore following heavy snowfall over the weekend.

Work crews, which were melting snow off the roof with steam and hot water, were called off for safety reasons at 6 p.m. Saturday and intended to return early the next day. But at 5 a.m. Sunday the roof deflated.

The roof is held up by hot air and a cable system, which was unable to support the nearly 17 inches of snow Minneapolis received, said Roy Terwilliger, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

The snowfall was the largest since the Halloween blizzard in 1991.

Birdair, the company that constructed the roof of the Metrodome, is assembling a team that will arrive in Minneapolis late Sunday or Monday to assess the situation, Terwilliger said.

The collapse came a day before the Vikings were supposed to host the New York Giants. By Saturday night, the game was delayed to Monday. Sunday, the NFL announced the game was moved to Detroit’s Ford Field.

Ticketholders for the game will get preferred 50-yardline seating, and there will be free general admission tickets available, according to the NFL.

TCF Bank Stadium was rumored to be an option the NFL was mulling for the Giants game, but short notice and “logistical and operational challenges” kept it from being chosen, the University of Minnesota said in a statement.

“Following the Golden Gophers last home game against Iowa, TCF Bank Stadium was winterized for the season and is not now immediately operational for football games,” the statement said.

The University will “continue to explore all feasible options to make it possible to accommodate the Vikings on campus to complete their season in the Twin Cities, should that be necessary.”

Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission officials hope to have the roof repaired in the next week — in time for the Vikings to host the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Dec. 19.

The collapse may bode well for the Vikings’ chance at a new stadium, with some seeing this as an indication of the building’s poor quality.

Terwilliger said the collapse has implications for a new stadium. A retractable roof — one of the options being considered with a new stadium — would not have issues with collapsing and could be a selling point.

This is not the first time the dome has collapsed. In April 1983, about a year after the Metrodome opened, heavy snow caused a similar cave-in.

At that time, the roof was fixed “very quick,” Terwilliger said. The current repairs are expected to take about the same amount of time, but weather may be a factor.

The last collapse “was at a different time of year … a little warmer,” he said. “We’ve got extremely cold temperatures forecasted this week, so that probably will make it a little more difficult working conditions.”

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