Eight months after its roof collapsed, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is getting the final touches in preparation for its public reopening this weekend.
Staff at the state's largest public venue said the Metrodome will be better than ever when the Minnesota Vikings take the field for their first home game since December 5.
The Vikings host their first game in the dome in a preseason matchup with Dallas Cowboys on August 27. That game also begins the last season of the Vikings' lease of the stadium. Vikings management has been pushing for a replacement and hope to get a special Legislative session to pass a stadium bill this fall.
Without Wayne Enger and Ken Yanish, the floor of the Metrodome is nothing but turf.
'It's been since December 8th since we painted it last. So it's been a while. Nine months," said Yanish, the guy with the spray gun. When he's finished, that turf will be a football field again.
"From start to finish, doing all the lines and logos, is two shifts."
And that's one of the remaining details in what has been one of the state's biggest repair jobs, prompted by the collapse of the 10-acre roof last year. The roof went back up July 13. The turf was put down August 5 and what's left is a good wiping down by a cleaning crew.
Since the roof's collapse, the Metrodome has been an outdoor stadium in much of the winter, spring and summer. Window washers are cleaning the glass in front of the luxury boxes, workers are putting out folding chairs and construction crews are sealing the seams in the roof.
They'll be done by this weekend, when the dome is holding literally the biggest open house in Minnesota.
"(It will) be a chance to come in and go down on the field. Free tours," said Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which is hosting the open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
A tailgate party begins at 1 p.m., with hot dogs for a buck, and a monster truck car crushing on the Metrodome plaza shortly after.
"We have the Vikings coming down, and they'll have a field goal contest with kids, and they'll have former players signing autographs. We have some programming from them, and they'll have season and single game tickets for sale."
The first 3,000 people attending will receive a piece of the old Metrodome roof — the teflon that stretched over dome history from the 1991 World Series, to the Rolling Stones to Randall Cunningham taking a knee and the loss of the 1998 NFC Championship.
"Here's a curiosity. We've had requests from over 40 states and thousands of people that wanted a piece of the old roof because they were here for one even or another."
We Care, the disaster relief organization set up in the wake of the North Minneapolis tornado, will be on hand to thanking volunteers and offer back-to-school help for victims of the disaster. The upper concourse will be open for rollerblading, and free parking in the lot just east of the Metrodome.
"It'll be a small version of the state fair and a chance to celebrate the reopening of our rec room."
No one imagined the Metrodome would close when the snow started December 10 and kept going for two days, dumping 17 inches on the Twin Cities.
But $23 million and eight months later, the stadium is better than its ever been, Metrodome officials said.
"We've got a stronger roof fabric on top," said Steve Maki, facility and engineering director.
It's also got a lower rise on the roof to handle wind better, and a re-engineered noise-dampening system under the roof to help better melt snow from the next blizzard.
And Maki is happy to have it.
"I never thought I'd have eight months of so much fun," he said.