Vikes to play '14, '15 seasons outdoors
Next season will be the Minnesota Vikings' last in the 31-year-old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and fans of the purple and gold can look forward to blue lips and red cheeks as they shiver through two seasons of old-school, outdoor football.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said Friday that the team plans to play at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, while the team's new stadium gets built at the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.
Team officials and the state authority overseeing construction convened at the dome Friday to finalize the deal for Minneapolis firm Mortenson Construction to earn $12.5 million to build the new stadium. That fee could reach $15 million if the firm meets performance incentives, but could be lowered if the construction lags. Mortenson also built the Minnesota Twins' Target Field, and TCF Bank Stadium on the university campus.
The Vikings had hoped to play only one season at the outdoor stadium, which is about a 10-minute drive from the Metrodome. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority had looked into starting construction while the Metrodome still stood, but authority chair Michelle Kelm-Helgen said that proved too difficult.
Plans now call for the Metrodome to be torn down in February 2014 and for the new stadium to be ready to open by July 1, 2016.
''The Vikings are operating under the assumption that 2013 is our last season in the Metrodome,'' Bagley said. A spokesman for the University of Minnesota didn't immediately respond to a phone message Friday.
It won't be the Vikings' first time playing at the campus stadium. The team played the Chicago Bears there in a cold, snowy December 2010 game, a week after the Metrodome's snow-heavy roof collapsed during a blizzard. But those two seasons will be the team's first played outdoors since the Vikings abandoned Bloomington's Metropolitan Stadium at the end of the 1981 season.
The plan is for the new, $975 million to be enclosed. But Bagley said that Mortenson would help the Vikings build cost estimates for potentially including a retractable roof, wall or window, or some combination of those three.
''The Vikings are very interested in a retractable feature,'' Bagley said. He said a decision on that is likely within 90 days.
Mortenson's fee amounts to 1.7 percent of total construction costs. Senior Vice President John Wood said the company's initial bid to the authority was 1.95 percent.
Kelm-Helgen and Bagley said they were glad to be able to hire a Minnesota firm, but that Mortenson was competitive with the firms from other states that bid for the work. Mortenson said the project would generate 7,500 jobs for Minnesota construction workers; Kelm-Helgen said it would be ''the largest construction project the state has ever seen.''
Dallas-based HKS Architects is designing the stadum. Kelm-Helgen said an initial design would likely be released in March.