The Metrodome Roof Falls Down

Jared Wade


April 1, 2011

When the Metrodome was completed in 1982, it was a modern marvel. At a cost of $68 million, the 140,000-square-foot Minneapolis stadium was capable of bringing together 64,000 fans. Since it opened, more than 73 million people have visited for events including the Super Bowl, World Series and Final Four.

All this was made possible by a complicated roof technology consisting of 10 acres of teflon-coated fiberglass fabric held up by the air pressure created by 20 large, 90-horsepower fans. Using this innovative method both saved the city money and gave it a multidimensional venue to lure events to the Twin Cities.

Unfortunately, this design is not as stable as a fixed-roof structure -- a weakness that would become apparent after a December blizzard dumped 17 inches of snow on the stadium. The Metrodome's dual-membrane construction usually allowed hot air to flow through and melt accumulating snow, but this time the weight of the storm proved too great. The balloon deflated and a torrent of snow ripped through the roof, an event that was captured live by Fox Sports cameras.

The collapse occurred while the building was empty so no one was injured and minimal damage occurred to the field. But some events did have to be cancelled, including three Minnesota Vikings football games, a New Year's celebration and a monster truck rally.

The ongoing roof repair will reportedly cost up to $25 million. With property coverage, through FM Global, and business interruption insurance, much of the economic fallout will likely be covered.

Complicating matters, however, is the fact that the only pro team that plays there, the Vikings, wants a new stadium. The multi-purpose aspect is not compelling to the football team's ownership, which wants a modern facility with better amenities and an atmosphere less reminiscent of an airplane hanger.

Jared Wade is a freelance writer and a former editor of Risk Management.