- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- On April 17, 2014, some 356 days ago, the last of 49,100 truckloads carried off the final remnants of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, clearing the stage for the construction of the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium on the same site.
That construction process is now halfway done, with the Vikings' futuristic stadium rising on the east end of downtown Minneapolis. The $1 billion-plus facility, which is scheduled to open in July 2016, is changing the city's skyline along with a series of new developments designed to revitalize the east part of downtown. And in roughly 16 months, the Vikings will take the field for the first time.
"It's amazing how quickly, day-to-day, things change," team president Mark Wilf said after an event to mark the halfway point in stadium construction. "It transforms before our eyes, and I think the second half of the construction, the fans are going to start seeing and feeling what they're going to experience when they go watch a Vikings game. It should be great."
More than 900 workers are on site daily, with the total expected to peak at 1,127 this summer. Mortenson Construction executive Eric Grenz said more than $400 million of work has been done since the start of the job, with 80 percent of the stadium's concrete already poured. Seats will start going into the facility this summer, and by November, the stadium's roof -- which will use a clear plastic called ETFE to give the facility an outdoor feel -- will be in place.
The stadium is still on schedule and on budget, though the Vikings have added nearly $74 million to the budget -- on top of the stadium's initial $975 million price tag -- while working to keep costs in line. Wilf said the Vikings would spend more on the stadium if it becomes necessary in the final 15 months of construction, reiterating ownership will "do what it takes" to make sure the facility is first-rate.
Of the features discussed with the media on Wednesday morning, the one that made my ears perk up was the massive storm drain designed to dispatch snow in the wintertime and avoid any possible reprise of the Metrodome roof's collapse in 2010. The stadium's steeply-pitched roof is designed to send snow sliding off the top of the building, where it will be deflected into a heated gutter system that melts the snow and reroutes water into a storm drain. At its largest point, the mouth of the gutter is 65 feet wide and 90 feet deep. And unlike the Metrodome, where the Teflon-coated roof was held up by a quirky pressure system that prevented two sets of double doors from opening at the same time, there will be a set of steel beams undergirding the roof.
When the Metrodome was erected in the early 1980s, it was a utilitarian solution, coming in under budget at $68 million and hosting three teams -- the Vikings, Twins and University of Minnesota football team -- for its first 27 years of existence. The Vikings' new stadium is being built on (and will be expected to make money on) a drastically different scale. As Wilf mentioned on Wednesday, the Vikings have been taking free-agent visitors on tours of the new stadium site, and for perhaps the first time in their history, the Vikings will have a facility that functions as a legitimate asset. It's about to be a different world for the franchise, and what was clear on Wednesday morning was how intent the Vikings are on maximizing their moment.
"I think it's going to be a building that is going to really wow the American sports public and the world," Wilf said. "It's a venue we're really proud of."