No retractable roof, but lots of blue sky for new Vikings stadium

An aerial rendering of the new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis (HKS Architects)

Stadium builders have unveiled their vision for Minnesota’s new NFL stadium: it’s part fluoroplastic, part Viking sailing ship and an angular nod to other Minneapolis landmarks like the Walker Art Center and the Guthrie Theater.

And the roof won’t be opening.

That said, the south half of the roof will be sheathed in ETFE, a transparent polymer made famous by the glowing exterior of the Beijing National Aquatics Center from the 2008 Olympics. The north half of the roof will be conventional “hard deck” roofing, but fans in Minneapolis will be able to see the sky year round, without sitting out in wintry weather.

VIDEO: Video “fly through” from HKS Architects

“Clear is the new retractable,” said chief architect Bryan Trubey, of Dallas-based design firm HKS Architects. The company also designed the Dallas Cowboys stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. He says the new Vikings home, with the transparent roof, will be unlike anything else in the U.S.

“The sunshine coming through the ETFE, which looks and behaves like glass, allows the sunlight to pass through to the stands, creating the look and feel of being outdoor with all the temperature and comfort advantages of being indoor.”

The stadium will have what designers have been touting as an “operable” feature. They’re planning massive 95-foot tall doors on the downtown side of the stadium that will pivot open and allow fans to walk through a 350-foot opening in the side of the building

A celestory glass ribbon will run around the stadium, just below the roof, there will be entrances on every side, and all entries will be at street-level, a change from the Metrodome. “This building is all front door,” Trubey said.

The overall design won praise from Tom Fisher, the dean of the architecture school at the University of Minnesota. He consulted on some of the features of the new stadium, like handling cold weather and snow. But he said some of the other innovations really stood out.

“This is going to be an internationally, well known, famous building. It’s gonna be the most sustainable stadium in the world. It has some features, the largest glazed roof in the world. The largest glass doors in the world,” Fisher said. “It’s going to be quite spectacular. It’s asymmetrical, so it kind of captures the dynamism of the activity inside.”

View of main entrance (HKS Architects)

The building will also be high-tech from the outside in. Two massive video boards are planned for either end of the stadium, five stories high and 120 feet wide. There will be 12 hundred HD TV’s mounted through the stadium and a giant 50-foot electronic display outside, on a towering spire at one end of the stadium, reminiscent of a ship’s prow.

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen told hundreds of people on hand for the unveiling that the most important feature may be the simplest: a large open space that can accommodate a wide variety of events, from monster trucks to college baseball games.

“It will be possible for us to now host events such as Big 10 championships. The Super Bowl, the Final Four, college bowl games, Major League Soccer, we hope, national conventions, music concerts and perhaps even World Cup matches.”

Fans were thrilled with the first look they got at the team’s new home.

“I think the new design is awesome,” said so-called “super fan” Larry Spooner, of Excelsior. He  was tailgating outside the Guthrie after the unveiling — which he admits is the first time he’s set foot in the theater. “I tell you 16 years of my life has been committed to lobbying for this night. What a night. The Super Bowl we never won, we finally won,” Spooner said, noting his team’s four unsuccessful trips to the NFL championship.

Groundbreaking is expected to be in October. The stadium is supposed to be finished in July 2016. Vikings will play their 2013 season in the existing Metrodome, which will then be demolished.

HKS Architects