Vikings officials: Bird-safe stadium glass would cost $60M, add delays

An artist rendering of the new Vikings stadium
An artist rendering of the new Vikings stadium.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

Adding bird-safe glass to the new Vikings stadium could delay construction by six months and add as much as $60 million in extra costs, according to Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen.

"If you look at Mortenson, their subcontractors, all of our consultants and staff that are working on this project--and you're extending the whole project from two to six months--you're looking at costs that would be anywhere from 25 to 60 million dollars and potentially higher," Kelm-Helgen said.

She gave the estimate Friday in response to repeated complaints that the clear glass planned for the stadium would pose a grave threat to birds.

"We want to find solutions that are win-win," said authority commissioner Bill McCarthy.

However, McCarthy and his colleagues didn't move to make any immediate changes.

Kelm-Helgen said Viracon, the stadium's Owatonna-based glass maker, has said changing the glass order to substitute etched or "fritted" glass would take as much as 23 extra weeks, possibly keep the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium for an addition season, and divert other events. She said that could impact the rent the Vikings would pay to the MSFA.

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"So that $10 million might conceivably not come in. In addition we obviously, especially in the beginning, have a number of very large events that our operator, SMG is looking at bringing into the stadium, and they are looking at a potential cost impact of what would come to us of somewhere, again, from $4 to $8 million."

Kelm-Helgen reiterated that the stadium construction would proceed as planned.

She also offered more detail on the plans to test a number of film coatings produced by 3M Co. that might make the glass safer for birds.

"There are two new, two existing and they're going to test all four," Kelm-Helgen said. She also said the University of Minnesota would help monitor the tests. So far, though, the MSFA has made no firm commitment to use the films at all.

Bird advocates have been citing a smaller figure, about $1 million, as the added cost for "fritted" glass.

But stadium officials say that doesn't account for potential lost revenue, such as Vikings game rent, or possible legal action by contractors seeking compensation for indirect costs of lost business due to schedule changes.

"I'm not sure I believe that," said Lisa Venable of Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Bids. She said she'd like to see proof.

She also said she finds the argument that a delay is too costly to be disingenuous.

"We've been working on this for a year and a half, but for them to say now, it's too late, just seems ridiculous," Venable said.