Hold on to your seats: Metrodome relics available for purchase
MINNEAPOLIS -- Still searching for a holiday gift for that special sports fan in your life? Why not buy him or her the pitcher's mound that once was used by the likes of Johan Santana and Frank Viola at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
Maybe that special someone is a football fan. No problem. You can purchase the goal posts that previously stood in the Dome's end zones by logging onto minnbid.org and placing a bid on them.
Those bright blue plastic chairs that still fill the Metrodome would look great in a man cave, wouldn't they? Well, you'll have to wait before you can get your hands on any of the 60,000 iconic seats.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority still has yet to figure out exactly what to do with the Metrodome seats once the final Vikings game is played Dec. 29. More than 70 groups have inquired about obtaining hundreds -- or in some cases, thousands -- of the plastic seats, said MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen. An announcement is expected in the coming days as to the group's plans for the seats.
"We're just trying to first of all collect all the information of the cost to separate the seats and unbolt them from the concrete slabs and move them, so that's one thing," Kelm-Helgen said. "One way or another, as long as our costs are covered, for those 70 groups of schools, colleges or non-profits, we will make those seats available to them. What happens to the rest of the seats as far as some individual requests -- some businesses have requested -- we're looking at putting together an overall strategy."
Kelm-Helgen said Mortenson Construction, the firm contracted to build the Vikings' new stadium, gave an estimate that it will cost $48 a seat to remove them and transport them to a location at which they can be picked up by various organizations. Additionally, the seats inside the Dome are all in rows, meaning repurposing them as individual seats is a bit tricky.
Most of the groups that have expressed interest in the seats are local high schools and colleges, as well as some nonprofit organizations. The requests have continued to come in over the last few years.
"We clearly would like to accommodate those requests," Kelm-Helgen said. "On the other hand, I'm not sure that even if we just had them pay the cost of removal, which is $50 a seat, whether that's realistic."
One of the groups that was initially interested in obtaining around 300 Metrodome seats was the River Falls Baseball Council in River Falls, Wis. The organization is in the middle of building a new community ballpark that has so far raised $800,000 in private money to fund the project, said president Josh Eidem.
Given the already high costs to build the stadium, the RFBC was hoping that the Metrodome might be willing to donate several hundred of the blue plastic seats. When it became clear it wouldn't be receiving that donation, the RFBC instead purchased 300 seats from the old Camden Yards in Baltimore via a company called Archer Seating.
Companies like Archer and S&S Seating serve as a graveyard of sorts for the remains of old stadium seats. The old green seats from Camden Yards that will be used in River Falls are the biggest draw on Archer's website, while S&S advertises seats from the old Tiger Stadium, Shea Stadium and Busch Stadium, among others.
The River Falls community, which includes many Twins fans, was hoping to bring those Metrodome seats across the border and preserve some of the Dome's history. Instead, the group raised an extra $17,000 to purchase the Camden Yards seats.
"I think we understand their position," Eidem said of the MSFA. "I would say we're not disappointed with the Sports Facilities Commission or any of those folks. They're under quite a bit of scrutiny just because of the way the funding has gone with pull tabs and everything else. I get it. If they start donating things from the Metrodome to local groups, then the other end of people is upset, 'Why are you donating things you could be selling?'"
While the Metrodome seats may be available for purchase down the road, sports fans or memorabilia collectors can still get make a bid to take home a number of other items from the Dome. Both the NFL and high school goalposts used in recent years are up for auction at minnbid.org until Dec. 19. Additionally, the scoreboard that was used when the NCAA Final Four was at the Dome in both 1992 and 2001 is up for auction until Dec. 20, with a reserve of $3,000. As of Thursday afternoon, there were no bids on the scoreboard.
There will surely be inquiries about the roof and the turf, too, particularly from collectors. Kelm-Helgen said the turf currently used at the Dome likely won't be salvageable to be used again once it's removed based on the way the turf is installed.
"Because it's not like a removable turf, per se, when you take that up it's going to come up in kind of chunks where it's not going to make it really reusable, I'm told," Kelm-Helgen said. "It's just not practical to think about that turf. There are some kinds of turf that are removable where some stadiums actually have different types for different events. That's not the case here."
In the coming weeks, more auction items will be listed on minnbid.org. Once the Vikings' final game is done, removal of items from the Metrodome will ramp up. Along with some of the more notable items from the Dome that will be sold, Kelm-Helgen said other equipment and machinery will be open for bidding as well.
Once everything valuable is out of the Dome, the excavation will truly begin. The trademark Teflon roof will be deflated in mid-January, and the concrete structure will start to come down to make way for the new stadium.
For those hoping to witness a giant implosion of the Dome, you're out of luck as that won't be happening. A "somewhat traditional demolition" will be used, Kelm-Helgen said, using wrecking ball and cranes instead to tear down the stadium that has housed so many moments over the last three decades.
Even without an implosion, Vikings, Twins and Gophers fans will surely turn out to say their final goodbyes to the building their teams once called home.
"I wouldn't be at all surprised if that happens," Kelm-Helgen said. "I think it definitely will attract some attention."
Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter