Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Thursday, February 10, 2011
The risk of Metrodome roof replacement

By Kevin Seifert

The Minnesota Vikings will play the 2011 season at the Metrodome and will not fight a decision to replace the stadium's damaged roof at a cost of about $18 million. That's the upshot of a series of public statements made Thursday by the team and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), the government entity that owns and operates the stadium.

The Metrodome's Teflon roof collapsed Dec. 12 under the weight of heavy snow, and Lester Bagley -- the Vikings' top stadium lobbyist -- said the team had "concerns about the safety and the viability of that structure going forward." There has been some speculation that the Vikings would try to break their Metrodome lease, which expires in 12 months, and play at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus in 2011.

But in a statement released Thursday, the Vikings said: "We appreciate the MSFC's efforts to ensure a safe environment for all year-round users of the publicly-owned stadium, and we are pleased the Vikings will be able to play in front of our fans at [the Metrodome] during the final season of the team's lease agreement."

The statement also reiterated the Vikings' plan to seek passage of a financing bill for a new stadium in the coming months. But if you're someone who has vested interest in imminent approval of that bill, a roof replacement isn't the best development.

The ideal scenario would have been to shutter the building entirely and begin construction on a replacement immediately. A plan to spend $18 million to repair a 29-year-old building has its faults, even if insurance covers most of the cost. If there are any state leaders looking for a reason to put off or delay approval, a reinforced Metrodome provides the perfect avenue.

You could point out that the Vikings will be football free agents after the 2011 season and thus prime candidates to relocate. Technically, nothing will bind them to Minnesota after February 2012. But if you operate under the belief that state politicians don't usually act decisively until the latest possible moment, you could easily see this issue pushed into the 2012 legislative session, which will begin a month before the Vikings' lease expires.