Snowstorm brings down Metrodome roof

Collapsed Metrodome
Heavy snow collapsed the Metrodome early on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

The snowstorm that dumped more than 20 inches of snow on parts of Minnesota brought down the roof of the Metrodome on Sunday morning.

The roof collapsed under the weight of a snowstorm that dumped 17 inches of snow on the city Saturday. The executive director of the commission that runs the dome, Bill Lester, says a crew that had been clearing snow was pulled off Saturday night due to safety concerns. He says the crew stopped work well before the collapse.

View a video from inside the Metrodome as it collapsed.

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Commission Chairman Roy Terwilliger said the dome deflated at 5 a.m. Sunday.

"We had a crew up on top using steam as well as hot water yesterday, which is normally the last resort in making certain that the roof stays fine," Terwilliger said. "At 6 p.m. yesterday the crew was forced to leave because of the danger."

The Vikings game at the dome, which was scheduled for Sunday with the New York Giants, had already been postponed until Monday. Officials at the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission said the Vikings were scheduled to play the Giants at 7:20 p.m. on Monday at Ford Field in Detroit.

The collapsed roof of the Metrodome can be seen with the skyline behind in Minneapolis Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010. The inflatable roof of the Metrodome collapsed Sunday after a snowstorm that dumped 17 inches on Minneapolis. No one was hurt.
Ann Heisenfelt/AP

According to a press release from the Vikings:

Any ticket holders for the original game will be given preferred seating along the 50-yard line. Free general admission tickets to the game will be available at the Ford Field box office beginning at 8:00 a.m. CST.

The game will be broadcast in the New York City, Minneapolis, Rochester and Mankato, Minnesota markets. The game will also be available to Sunday Ticket subscribers on DirecTV.

Officials with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission say they don't know when the roof will be repaired and reinflated.

Steve Maki, facilities director for the Metrodome, said the roof is still in good shape.

"These panels are original panels, but I should tell you that we had, we've done multiple tests on the roof fabric, including this last spring, and the results of that fabric test indicate the fabric strength still exceeded original specifications," Maki said.

Terwilliger said officials don't know yet if the Vikings would be able to play in the dome on Monday, Dec. 20, either. A huge gaping tear could be seen from the inside of the dome above the 30-yard line on the north side of the stadium. Snow was covering about a third of the field, and melting snow was pouring in from the sagging roof.

The Vikings said in a written statement that the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium wasn't an option because the stadium was shut down for winter and would take several days to prepare for an NFL game.

Workers at the dome
Workers stand at the edge of the Metrodome roof on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010. The roof deflated due to the heavy weight of snow that fell in the metro area on Saturday.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

The Metrodome roof has failed three times before. It deflated in 1981, 1982 and 1983, each time due to tears caused by heavy snow. The April 14, 1983, collapse forced the postponement of the Twins' game with California, which had been the only postponement. A slight tear also delayed a Twins game briefly in 1986.

Witnesses were the first to report the Metrodome's collapse.

"It looks kind of like a big dish of sugar," said Chris Cowles, security director at the Holiday Inn Metrodome.

(MPR reporters Rupa Shenoy and Elizabeth Dunbar, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)