Maybe fans won’t be taking a seat in the Metrodome

Officials estimate these seats cost about $150 each new, and about $48 each to tear out of the metrodome and separate into usable portions. (MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)

They’re practically as iconic as the roof, those blue plastic seats that flank the Metrodome’s bowl. And like other defunct stadiums, fans have been clamoring to have old seats as souvenirs.

But taking a seat in the Metrodome may be tougher than it looks. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority said Thursday the authority’s intention to give away the seats may be too expensive.

“We’ve got a pretty healthy list, there’s about 70 schools, colleges, non profits, like community centers, baseball groups, that kind of thing that have made inquiries for seats. Most of the groups have asked for like two or three hundred. There are some that have asked for more,” authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said.

She told lawmakers on the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Sports Facilities that Mortenson Construction has estimated it’ll cost about $48 per seat to tear out and haul to the loading dock so people come pick them up.

Kelm-Helgen estimated that the work in salvaging the 20,000 seats people have asked for could cost as much as $1 million that wasn’t in the project budget. “Our authority can’t absorb a million dollar cost to remove chairs,” Kelm-Helgen said. The company that’s doing the demolition only agreed to smash the place up and haul it away.

Minneapolis DFL Sen. Bobby Joe Champion asked if there wasn’t a cheaper way, such as a do-it-yourself option.

Kelm-Helgen told him it would be difficult to arrange. For one thing, the seats aren’t self supporting and they come in long, continuous (and presumably very heavy) rows.

“As you can well imagine, our insurance companies, the work rules — we’re governed by a labor peace agreement,” Kelm-Helgen said. “But mainly it’s the insurance and  liability issue that we just couldn’t go there. To have all these people come in. It’s not just unbolting a few things. It’s very significant process, and not one that you would want someone who didn’t really know what they were doing undertaking.”

In an interview, Kelm-Helgen said that her agency is still hoping to figure out how to accommodate the requests. If there isn’t a solution by the end of the year, the seats will be wreckage when the stadium comes down.