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Mall of America Metrodome

 

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, commonly called the Metrodome, is a domed sports stadium in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The football playing field has been known as Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome since October 2009.

Opened in 1982, it replaced Metropolitan Stadium, which was on the current site of the Mall of America in Bloomington and Memorial Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. The Metrodome is home to the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings, and the Big Ten's University of Minnesota Golden Gophers baseball team. The stadium was also the home of the Minnesota Twins from 1982 to 2009 and the Golden Gophers football team from 1982 to 2008. The stadium is the ninth oldest stadium in the National Football League. Locally, its nickname is The Dome.

 

The stadium has a fiberglass fabric roof that is self-supported by air-pressure, the second major sports facility to have this feature (the first being the Pontiac Silverdome). The Metrodome is similar in design to BC Place Stadium and the RCA Dome. It was reputedly the inspiration for the Tokyo Dome.

By the early 1970s, the Minnesota Vikings were unhappy with Metropolitan Stadium's relatively small capacity for football (just under 48,500). In addition, the stadium was not well maintained; broken railings and seats could be spotted in the third deck by the early 1970s. Supporters of a dome also believed that the Minnesota Twins would benefit from a climate-controlled stadium to insulate the team from harsh Minnesota weather later in the season.

Construction success of other domed stadiums, particularly the Pontiac Silverdome near Detroit, paved the way for voters to approve funding for a new stadium. Downtown Minneapolis was beginning a revitalization program, and the return of professional sports from suburban Bloomington was seen as a major success story. A professional team hadn't been based in downtown Minneapolis since the Minneapolis Lakers left for Los Angeles in 1960.

Construction on the Metrodome began on December 20, 1979 and was funded by a limited hotel-motel and liquor tax, local business donations, and payments established within a special tax district near the stadium site. Uncovering the Dome by Amy Klobuchar (now a U.S. Senator) describes the ten-year effort to build the venue. The stadium was named in memory of former mayor of Minneapolis, U.S. Senator and U.S. Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, who had died in 1978.

 

The Metrodome cost $68 million to build—roughly $2 million under budget, a rarity for modern stadiums. It is a somewhat utilitarian facility, though not quite as spartan as Metropolitan Stadium. One stadium official once said that all the Metrodome was designed to do was "get fans in, let 'em see a game, and let 'em go home."

 

The 1985 MLB All-Star Game, several games of the 1987 and the 1991 World Series, Super Bowl XXVI in 1992, and the 1998-99 NFC Championship all were held at the Metrodome.

 

The NCAA Final Four was held at the Metrodome in 1992 and 2001. Duke University was the winner on both occasions. The Metrodome has also served as one of the four regional venues for the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship in 1986, 1989, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2006 and most recently, 2009 . The dome has also held first and second round games in the NCAA Basketball Tournament in addition to regionals and the Final Four, most recently in 2009.

The Metrodome is the only venue to host a MLB All-Star Game (1985), a Super Bowl (1992), an NCAA Final Four (1992 & 2001), and a World Series (1987 & 1991). It has been recognized as one of the loudest domed venues in which to view a game, due in part to the fact that sound is recycled throughout the stadium because of the domed roof. Stadium loudness is a hot sports marketing issue, as the noise lends the home team a home advantage against the visiting team. The Metrodome is the loudest domed NFL stadium. During the 1987 World Series and 1991 World Series, peak decibel levels were measured at 125 and 118 respectively comparable to a jet airliner—both close to the threshold of pain.

 

Features

Since the stadium was built, the economics of sports marketing have changed. Teams are charging higher prices for tickets, and are demanding more amenities, such as bigger clubhouses and locker rooms, more luxury suites, and more concession revenue. To that end, pressure has been applied by team owners, media, and fans to have the State of Minnesota provide newer, better facilities to host the teams. The Metrodome has served its primary purpose, to provide a climate-controlled facility in which to host the three sports tenants in Minnesota with the largest attendance. The indoor venue is particularly welcome in the highly variable climate of Minnesota.

 

The Metrodome was widely thought of as a hitter's park, with a low (7 ft) left-field fence (343 ft) that favored right-handed power hitters, and the higher (23 ft) but closer (327 ft) right-field Baggie that favored left-handed power hitters. Because the roof is very nearly the same color as a baseball, and transmits light, the Metrodome had a far higher error incidence than a normal stadium during day games, so instead of losing a fly ball in the sun, as is common for non-roofed stadiums, fly balls could easily get lost in the ceiling. Unlike most parks built during this time, the Metrodome's baseball configuration had asymmetrical outfield dimensions.

 

It gave up even more home runs before air conditioning was installed in 1983. Before 1983, the Dome had been nicknamed "the Sweat Box." The Metrodome is climate controlled, and has protected the baseball schedule during the entire time it was the venue for the Minnesota Twins. Major League Baseball schedulers had the luxury of being able to count on dates played at the Metrodome. Doubleheader games only occurred when purposely scheduled. The last time that happened was when the Twins scheduled a day-night doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals on August 31, 2007. The doubleheader was necessitated after an August 2 game vs. Kansas City was postponed one day after the I-35W Bridge collapse in downtown Minneapolis.

 

The Roof

The Metrodome's air-supported roof was designed by the inventor of air-supported structures, David H. Geiger, through his New York-based Geiger Berger Associates, and manufactured and installed by Birdair Structures. An air-supported structure supported by positive air pressure, it requires 250,000 ft³/min (120 m³/s) of air to keep it inflated. The air pressure is supplied by twenty 90-horsepower fans. The roof is made of two layers: the outer layers are Teflon coated fiberglass and the inner is a proprietary acoustical fabric. By design, the dead air space between the layers insulates the roof; in winter, warm air is blown into the space between layers to help melt snow that has accumulated on top. At the time it was built, the 10 acres (4.0 ha) of fabric made the roof the largest expanse ever done in that manner. The outside Teflon membrane is 1/32nd of an inch thick and the inner liner of woven fiberglass is 1/64th of an inch thick. The entire roof weighs roughly 580,000 pounds. It reaches 195 feet (59 m), or about 16 stories, at its highest point.

 

To prevent roof tears like those that occurred in its first years of service, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission adopted a twofold strategy to prevent future occurrences: When snow accumulation was expected, hot air was pumped into the space between the roof's two layers. Workers also climbed on the roof and used steam and high-powered hot-water hoses to melt snow. In addition, before the storm that caused the December 2010 collapse, the inside of the stadium was heated to nearly 80 °F (26.7 °C).

 

To maintain the differential air pressure, spectators usually enter and leave the seating and concourse areas through revolving doors, since the use of regular doors without an airlock would cause significant loss of air pressure. The double-walled construction allows warmed air to circulate beneath the top of the dome, melting accumulated snow. A sophisticated environmental control center in the lower part of the stadium is manned to monitor weather and make adjustments in air distribution to maintain the roof.

 

Because it is unusually low to the playing field, the air-inflated dome occasionally figured into game action. Major League Baseball had specific ground rules for the Metrodome. Any ball which struck the Dome roof, or objects hanging from it, remained in play; if it landed in foul territory it became a foul ball, if it landed in fair territory it became a fair ball. Any ball which became caught in the roof over fair ground was a ground rule double. That has only happened three times in its history - Dave Kingman for the Oakland Athletics on May 4, 1984,University of Minnesota Gophers player George Behr and Corey Koskie in 2004. The speakers, being closer to the playing surface, were hit more frequently, especially the speakers in foul ground near the infield, which were typically hit several times a season, which posed an extra challenge to infielders trying to catch them. However, beginning with the 2005 season, the ground rules for Twins games were changed such that any batted ball that struck a speaker in foul territory would automatically be called a foul ball, regardless of whether or not it was caught. The roof is high enough that it has never been a concern for events other than baseball.

 

Early roof incidents

Five times in the stadium's history, heavy snows or other weather conditions have significantly damaged the roof and in four instances caused it to deflate. Four of the five incidents had occurred within the stadium's first five years of operation:

 

On November 19, 1981, a rapid accumulation of over a foot of snow caused the roof to collapse, requiring it to be re-inflated. It deflated the following winter on December 30, 1982, again because of a tear caused by heavy snow. This was four days before the Vikings played the Dallas Cowboys in the last regular season game of the 1982 NFL season. In the spring following that same winter, on April 14, 1983, the Metrodome roof deflated because of a tear caused by a late-season heavy snow, and the scheduled Twins' game with the California Angels was postponed. On April 26, 1986, the Metrodome roof suffered a slight tear because of high winds, causing a nine-minute delay in the bottom of the seventh inning versus the Angels; however the roof did not deflate.

 

2010 inspection

Birdair had conducted a regular inspection of the Metrodome roof in April 2010. Its report to the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission stated that "the outer membrane is in good condition and still holding up well," and rated the inner liner's condition as "fair to poor". The inspectors also noted that the inner liner of the roof was dirty (mostly due to emissions from automotive events) and had some holes in it, advising that the holes be monitored to avoid large tears from enlarging. In addition, Birdair noted some minor areas on the outer membrane that needed repairing, which were done by the time of the Commission's July regular meeting. Overall, Birdair noted the membrane was weathering as anticipated and had exceeded its service life of 20 years; it recommended planning for replacement of the roof fabric, and noted that planning and implementation would take an additional five years and cost $12-$15 million. In forming their own conclusion, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission staff decided that the outer membrane was in very good shape, that the roof continued to have serviceable life, and planned schedule another testing in four years; the Commission made no recommendations.

 

2010 roof incident

A severe winter storm arrived on December 10-11, 2010 with high snow accumulation (more than seventeen inches) and strong winds; those winds made the roof unsafe for the snow removal crew. As the workers were pulled back, the roof was already sagging in the center. On December 12 at about 5:00 a.m., the roof had a catastrophic collapse and three panels tore open. The night before, a Fox Sports crew setting up for an upcoming football game noticed water leaking from the roof and kept their cameras on all night; those cameras captured the roof tearing and ice and snow falling into the stadium. No one was injured. Most of the roof sagged and came to rest on cable stays. The collapse caused no damage inside the arena aside from a light fixture and some seats. The turf was not damaged; a drainage system designed for cleaning purposes allowed the field to dry out.On December 15, 2010 a fourth panel ripped open, sending more snow and ice into the dome. 

 

The Vikings and the New York Giants had been scheduled to play a football game on the afternoon of the 12th. The game had already been postponed to Monday night, the 13th, due to concerns of stadium officials. Because of the tears in the roof, the NFL relocated the game to Ford Field in Detroit. The league considered moving that game to the University of Minnesota's nearby TCF Bank Stadium, but it had been shut down and winterized for the season and would have needed several days to prepare for a football game. Due to roof repair time estimates, the Vikings December 20 game against the Chicago Bears was moved to TCF Bank Stadium. The final two games for the 2010 Minnesota Vikings season already were scheduled as road games, and the team had already been eliminated from the playoffs.

 

The Gophers first baseball game of their 2011 season at the Dome was scheduled for February 5. However, on December 29, it was announced that the roof would not be repaired until the spring of 2011.

 

The Field

During its early years of operation, the field at the Metrodome was surfaced with SuperTurf. The surface, also known as SporTurf, was very bouncy—so bouncy, in fact, that Billy Martin once protested a game after seeing a base hit that would normally be a pop single turn into a ground rule double. Baseball and football players alike complained that it was too hard. This surface was upgraded to Astroturf in 1987, and in 2004, the sports commission had a newer artificial surface, called FieldTurf, installed. FieldTurf is thought to be a closer approximation to natural grass than Astroturf in its softness, appearance, and feel. A new Sportexe Momentum Turf surface was installed during the summer of 2010. The sliding pits and pitcher's mound used by the Twins and Gophers has been removed. Any future baseball games will see baserunners slide on "grass." The homeplate area is being kept as it is not "in-play" for football configuration. The original homeplate installed at the dome was memorably dug up after the Twins' final game and has been installed at Target Field.

 

Plexiglas

From 1985 to 1994, the left-field wall included a six-foot clear Plexiglas screen for a total height of 13 feet (4.0 m). It was off this Plexiglas wall that former Twins player Kirby Puckett jumped to rob Ron Gant of the Atlanta Braves of an extra-base hit during Game 6 of the 1991 World Series (a game that Puckett would win with an 11th-inning walkoff homer) - in later years, with the Plexiglas removed, it would have been a potential home run ball.

 

The Baggie

The Metrodome's right-field wall was composed of the seven-foot-high (2.1 m) fence around the whole outfield and a 16-foot (4.9 m)-high plastic wall extension in right field, known as the "Baggie", or the "Hefty Bag." The seats above and behind the Baggie were home run territory; the Baggie itself was part of the outfield wall. Fenway Park's "Green Monster", a comparable but taller feature, is 17 feet (5.2 m) closer to home plate than the Baggie was, so batters who hit short, high fly balls were not typically helped by it. However, it was an attractive target for left-handed power hitters, and it was not uncommon for upper-deck home runs to be hit to right field. When in a rectangular configuration for football and other small-field events, the Baggie was taken down and the seats behind it extended to form complete lower-deck seating.

 

Minnesota Twins baseball

When opened it 1982, the Metrodome was appreciated for the protection it gave from mosquitoes, and later the weather. Over the years there had been a love-hate relationship with the fans, sportswriters, and stadium.The Minnesota Twins won two World Series championships in the Metrodome. The Twins won the 1987 World Series and 1991 World Series by winning all four games held at the Dome in both seasons. The loud noise, white roof, quick turf, and the right-field wall (or "Baggie") provided a substantial home-field advantage for the Twins. By 2001, several newer purpose-built Major League Baseball stadiums had been constructed, and the Metrodome was considered to be among the worst venues in Major League Baseball.

 

2004 ALDS

Only two Twins games in the Metrodome were ever postponed. The first was on April 14, 1983, when a massive snowstorm prevented the California Angels from getting to Minneapolis. The game would have likely been postponed in any case, however; that night heavy snow caused part of the roof to collapse. The second was on August 2, 2007, the day after the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge had collapsed a few blocks away from the Metrodome. The game scheduled for August 1 was played as scheduled (about one hour after the bridge had collapsed) because the team and police officials were concerned about too many fans departing the Metrodome at one time, potentially causing conflict with rescue workers. The August 2 ceremonial groundbreaking at the eventual Target Field was also postponed, for the same reason.

 

The Twins played their final scheduled regular season game at the Metrodome on October 4, 2009, beating the Kansas City Royals, 13-4. After the game, they held their scheduled farewell celebration. Because they ended the day tied with the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central, a one-game playoff between the teams was played there on October 6, 2009, with the Twins beating the Tigers 6-5 in 12 innings. The division clincher would be the Twins' last win at the Metrodome. The announced crowd was 54,088, setting the regular-season attendance record.

 

The final Twins game at the Metrodome was on October 11, 2009, when they lost to the New York Yankees 4-1, resulting in three-game sweep in the 2009 American League Division Series. The Twins' appearance in this series gave the Metrodome the distinction of being the first American League stadium to end its Major League Baseball history with post-season play. The only other stadiums whose final games came in the post-season are Atlanta Fulton County Stadium (1996), the Houston Astrodome (1999) and St. Louis's Busch Memorial

Stadium (2005), all of which were home venues for National League teams.

 

Oddities

Stadium neighborhood

Development in the Downtown East neighborhood around the Metrodome took many years to materialize. For many years there were few bars or restaurants nearby for fans to gather at; tailgating was expressly forbidden in most parking areas. The City of Minneapolis was directing the development of the entertainment districts along Seven corners in Cedar-Riverside, Hennepin Avenue, and the Warehouse district. The Metrodome existed among a number of parking areas built upon old rail yards, along with run-down factories and warehouses. The Metrodome is not connected to the Minneapolis Skyway System, although that was planned in 1989 to be completed in time to host Super Bowl XXVI. Only in recent years has redevelopment begun moving Southeast to reach the Metrodome. More restaurants, hotels, and condominiums have been built nearby. The Hiawatha light rail line has connected the Minneapolis entertainment district with the Metrodome.

 

Sight lines

The Metrodome is not a true multipurpose stadium. Rather, it was built as a football stadium that can convert into a baseball stadium. The seating configuration is almost rectangular in shape—something that suits football very well. The seats along the four straight sides directly face their corresponding seats on the opposite side, while the seats in the corners are four quarter-circles.

However, in most cases, this resulted in poor sight lines for baseball. For instance, the seats directly along the left field line faced the center field and right field fences. Unlike other major league parks, there were no seats down to field level. Even the closest front-row seats were at least 5 or 6 feet (1.8 m) above the field.

 

The way that many seats were situated forced some fans to crane their necks to see the area between the pitcher's mound and home plate. Some fans near the foul poles had to turn more than 80 degrees, compared to less than 70 with the previous Yankee Stadium or 75 degrees at Camden Yards. For that reason, the seats down the left field line were typically among the last ones sold; the (less expensive) outfield lower deck seating tended to fill up sooner. Nearly 1,400 seats had obscured or partial visibility to the playing field – some of them due to the right field upper deck being directly above (and somewhat overhanging) the folded-up football seats behind right field; and some of them due to steel beams in the back rows of the upper deck which are part of the dome's support system.

 

On the plus side, there was relatively little foul territory, which is not typical of most domed stadiums. Also, with the infield placed near one corner, the seats near home plate and the dugouts, where most game action occurs, had some of the closest views in Major League Baseball. Seats in these areas were popularly known as "the baseball section". In 2007, some extra rows (normally used only for football) were retained for baseball, in the area behind home plate. The sight lines were also very good in the right field corner area, which faced the infield and was closer to the action than the left field corner.

The Twins stopped selling most of the seats in sections 203—212 of the upper level in 1996. This area was curtained off except during the postseason or on occasions when a sellout was anticipated.

 

Scheduling conflicts

As part of the deal with the Metrodome, the Minnesota Twins had post-season priority over the Gophers in scheduling. If the Twins were in the playoffs with a home series, the baseball game took priority and the Gopher football game had to be moved to a time suitable to allow the grounds crew to convert the playing field and the stands to the football configuration.

 

The last month of Major League Baseball's regular season often included one or two Saturdays in which the Twins and Gophers used the Metrodome on the same day. On those occasions, the Twins game would start at about 11 AM local time (TV announcer Dick Bremer sometimes joked that the broadcast was competing with SpongeBob SquarePants). Afterward, the conversion took place and the Gophers football game started at about 6 PM. The University of Minnesota was the only school in the Big Ten that shared a football facility with professional sports teams for an extended period of years.

 

In 2007, there were two such schedule conflicts, on September 1 and 22. In 2008, there were no conflicts on the regular-season schedule.

Due to the minimum time needed to convert the field, a baseball game that ran long in clock time had to be suspended, and concluded the next day. The only time this happened was on October 2, 2004, when a game between the Twins and Indians reached the end of the 11th inning after 2:30 p.m. in a tie and resumed the next day.

 

The Vikings had rights to the Dome over the Twins except for World Series games. In 1987, the Vikings' home date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scheduled for the same day as Game 2 of the World Series was moved to Tampa, and the Vikings' game with the Denver Broncos scheduled for the same day as Game 7 was pushed back to the following Monday night.

 

The Twins' 2009 AL Central division tiebreaker with the Detroit Tigers was played on Tuesday, October 6, 2009. One-game playoffs are normally held the day after the regular season ends (in this case, the season ended on Sunday, October 4), but the Vikings were using the Metrodome for Monday Night Football on October 5. The Twins were awarded the right to host the tiebreaker because they won the season series against Detroit.

 

Naming rights

In 2009, Mall of America purchased naming rights for the field at the Metrodome, resulting in the field being called "Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome". The contract expires after the end of the 2011 Vikings season. The Vikings have operated a team apparel and memorabilia store at the Mall for several years. Despite possible inference from the signage, the MOA name applies only to the field, not the stadium as a whole. The building remains the HHH Metrodome.

 

 

 

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Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome, Mall of America, Minnesota Twins

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