The Minnesota Vikings will play the Chicago Bears next Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium. Officials with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission say the Metrodome's roof can't be fixed in time. And that will present a series of challenges for the U, the Vikings and the League.
The Sports Facilities Commission made the call to move the game after a daylight inspection of the damage to the dome. Executive director Bill Lester said the roof was inspected by representatives from the companies that designed and created the roof.
He said inspectors discovered that pieces of the damaged panels were missing, meaning they'd have to be replaced rather than patched -- which is a more time-consuming operation. Lester said they also found a safety risk.
"All of the snow that has gathered in the middle of the panels in the inverted roof, as much as four feet thick, has turned to ice and creates another stress on the remaining panels," said Lester.
Lester said repairs can't start until workers can melt the ice, and it's too early to tell how long the repairs will take or how much they'll cost. However, Lester said right now there are other events scheduled at the dome in early January that may have to be cancelled.
In the meantime, the University of Minnesota is in the process of waking TCF Bank Stadium from its winter hibernation. First, crews of shovelers and sweepers have to remove snow from the artificial grass on the field and from the stands.
Associate athletic director Scott Ellison said the Vikings agreed to pick up all the prelimary expenses, including plowing, as well as all expenses that would be involved in holding a game there. Ellison didn't know how much it would cost to remove the snow, but said he thought it would be considerable. The normal game day budget at the stadium is $250,000, he said.
The snow removal plan is to have groups of 100 workers, working four-hour shifts, for 16 hours a day. Right now, most of those workers are coming from temp agencies.
Officials also have to get the building ready, including the concessions, which are only designed to withstand mid-November temperatures. Ellison said officials would have to put Plexiglass covers over concession stands to trap heat inside.
It could also be a challenging experience for the players, because the field ground is not heated.
TCF Bank Stadium has a seating capacity of about 50,000 - about 13,000 fewer seats than are available at the Metrodome for football games.
Ellison said besides snow removal, there will be some man-made challenges to contend with as well, especially because the Monday night game is the NFL's biggest show of the week.
"There's a lot of issues with TV. The amount of cameras that come in, the amount of trucks, the TV trucks that come in. All that is just magnified with the Monday night game," he said.
Ellison said the university may have to hire more staff in order to comply with NFL security regulations. But he said he's 100 percent confident the university and the stadium will be able to meet the demands imposed by a professional football game.
There are other details that are being worked out between the NFL, the university and the Vikings. Team spokesman Lester Bagley said talks are underway to get around the alcohol ban in place at the stadium.
But beer or no beer, Bagley said the team is still planning to carry out its 50th anniversary celebration at the game. Bagley said some of the 50 greatest Vikings players will be on hand for the festivities -- many of whom played at the old Metropolitan Stadium.
"Kind of apropos that we came into the old Met playing against the Bears outside. And we end our 50th season outside playing against the Bears. And hopefully, we have the same result," said Bagley.
On Sept. 17, 1961 the Vikings beat the Bears 37-13. The last time the Vikings played an outdoor home game was nearly 30 years ago -- before most of the current Vikings were born.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)