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Vikings stadium design debuts tonight; Star Tribune HQ news also coming

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Aerial view of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

Minnesotans will get their first look this week at what will replace the Metrodome and, likely, the Star Tribune's nearby headquarters.

Architects, the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority are unveiling their plans for the final design of the billion-dollar stadium project tonight. It's been more than a decade in the making, and planners say it will make an even longer-lasting impression when it's built.

Vikings vice president Lester Bagley says fans will see a mix of high-technology, ancient mythology and a dose of politics in the final design of the new stadium in the works for downtown Minneapolis.

"What we're going to see tonight is a vision with local architecture, our Vikings tradition, our sort of Scandinavian heritage here," Bagley said. "All those things you're going to see laid out tonight and ultimately worked through the design that we're very excited about."

The team and the authority hired an architect in September. Dallas-based HKS offered two preliminary designs. Planners say those renderings have been scrapped and something altogether different will be rising on the Minneapolis skyline after a groundbreaking in October.

"We're going to see tonight lots of light, lots of glass, a very open feel to this facility," Bagley says.

What Bagley won't say, yet, is whether fans will be seeing the clear open blue sky when the stadium opens in July, 2016. Three of the last four NFL stadiums have had retractable roofs, and the other was open-air. The Vikings also have rights to bring a major league soccer team to Minneapolis, and have suggested a retractable roof would be a good fit for soccer.

"We've been driving toward a retractable feature, and a retractable element, so we'll see. We can't give it away exactly, other than we've been determined all the way through to deliver a retractable feature," Bagley says.

Tom Fisher is the Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, and also co-chair of the city of Minneapolis' Stadium Implementation Committee. It's a group of experts, officials and interested parties that's going to review the stadium design for the city. He's also consulted with HKS on the stadium, particularly on the challenges of building in a cold climate.

Fisher doesn't know whether the Vikings new stadium will be a convertible -- with a roof that opens.

He says his hunch is that it won't, for a couple reasons.

One is the pressure of high-definition television. The Vikings may need eye-popping visual experiences within the stadium to keep fans buying tickets and coming to the games. A fixed roof might be better for holding up big digital screens or scoreboards over the field.

Fisher also wonders if a retractable roof is really practical in Minneapolis.

"You know, so many stadiums have retractable roofs, those are extremely expensive," Fisher said. "They add a lot of cost in terms of the structure, and as anybody knows that has a house, you put a hole in the roof, its hard to keep the water out."

Michele Kelm-Helgen, the woman who heads the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, says she thinks the design will ultimately reflect well on the state.

"I don't think there'll be any thought that there's anything about this facility that isn't going to be a very high standard. But it is sort of Minnesota in that it definitely has a certain quality about it. Perhaps understated," she said.

Kelm-Helgen also says the design will reflect the hard-fought negotiations over the stadium's financing. She says Minnesotans shouldn't expect the kind of multi-million dollar upgrades the Xcel Energy Center or Target Field got from their teams as the facilites were being built.

"The budget is the budget," she says. "There's no more money coming for this facility."

The unveiling is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at another architectural landmark, the Guthrie Theater. The stadium authority is offering several hundred tickets to the public. They're free and will be available first come first serve at the Metrodome's Gate B ticket office starting at 5 o'clock tonight. The Vikings will also be streaming the announcement live on their website.

The Star Tribune’s Eric Roper is also reporting that the newspaper’s real estate future will be unveiled tomorrow. City officials have suggested that real estate developer Ryan has a deal in the works with Wells Fargo, possibly to consolidate its home mortgage business on a new campus, just west of the new stadium.

The paper’s departure from its long time home was hinted at strongly in the Minnesota Sports Facilties Authority’s Environmental Impact Statement on the new stadium. Here's how the statement describes it:

“The Proposed Project would also involve the demolition of the existing Star Tribune building on the block bounded by 4th and 5th Streets and Park and Portland Avenues. Approximately 600 people currently work in the 425 Portland. If these employees need to be relocated, the Star Tribune has stated that it will search for existing space in downtown Minneapolis to lease.”