Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
America's next $1 billion stadium will be in Minneapolis. This one is actually pretty cool.
The still to-be-named new NFL stadium in Minneapolis is yet another addition to a growing collection of heavily subsidized, $1 billion sports facilities. Of all the exorbitantly priced new stadiums proposed of late, it's easily one of the most promising architectural additions so far.
The 1.6 million square-foot, 65,000-seat facility will replace the 31-year-old Metrodome. It will also cost an estimated $975 million, with $500 of that via already approved public funding.
Designed by HKS Sports + Entertainment (Lucas Oil Field, Cowboys Stadium), the stadium will take on a dramatic look, introducing an asymmetrical, sharp-angled facade to an NFL with mostly curved, symmetrical facilities. Those sharp angles will serve a functional purpose too, making it easier to clean snow off the roof of the stadium, avoiding incidents like the Metrodome's roof collapse of 2010.
The stadium won't have a retractable roof as originally planned (the cost of that feature was deemed too high by planners), but it will have 95-foot high retractable doors instead. In order to bring in maximum light from above, the stadium will use clear ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE): that's the material used on Beijing's famous "Water Cube." It's the first time a U.S. stadium will use ETFE. If the ETFE roof is well received, it may well be harder for cold-climate NFL teams to demand their own retractable roofs, which add millions of dollars to project costs, in the future.
While most downtown football stadiums are criticized for their limited use (little more than the 10 home games an NFL team has in a season), the new facility in Minneapolis is designed to accommodate hockey, baseball, and basketball as well (that'll consist of University of Minnesota's baseball team and various collegiate tournaments). The 20th century version of multiple-use NFL stadiums has long been written off as a universal failure, but Minneapolis now has the opportunity to show that the concept can work without taking away from the fan experience. That in-turn could theoretically save municipalities money in the future by consolidating stadium projects instead of building new ones for each and every local sports franchise.
As an overall piece of design, it's a refreshing statement within the world of American stadium architecture; its forms resemble Farshid Moussavi's MOCA Cleveland as opposed to say, Cowboys Stadium, the architectural embodiment of pro sports' increasing fixation on its wealthiest patrons (also designed by HKS).
The site as it appears today. View Larger Map
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak thinks the new stadium will also be better at spurring development than its predecessor, saying at Monday's unveiling, "It's like the Metrodome was a space ship that landed and everybody ran from the martians. So now we've got a space ship landing and everybody loves those wonderful martians from outer space." If the stadium turns out to be an admired, multiple-use facility, then that's possible. But it's also important to remember that the Metrodome hosted 81 baseball games a year until only a few years ago. This new stadium won't have that benefit, which likely means less foot traffic on an average day than when the Metrodome was at its peak.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority voted unanimously to approve the design, which now gets sent to city hall for permit approvals. Groundbreaking is scheduled for October, with a grand opening in time for the 2016 NFL season. Demolition on the Metrodome, which occupies much of the new stadium's footprint, will begin in 2014. Minneapolites will be excited for its opening but so should stadium enthusiasts everywhere- how it turns out may help determine what our next wave of new stadiums will look like.
All images courtesy HKS Architects and the Minnesota Vikings