MINNEAPOLIS — The future home of the Vikings is halfway home to completion.
The team and Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority marked the occasion Wednesday with a tour for about 30 media members at the venue that remains on schedule to open in July 2016.
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Go inside the new Vikings stadium to see updated photos of the build, including shots of what some of the concourses look like.
"As we see the excitement in our fan base growing on a daily basis, we're driven harder to honor their passion and commitment for this team by providing the fan experience they expect and deserve," Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf said before the tour. "Over the next 15 months, we'll continue to ensure that when we kick off in 2016, we'll have built a stadium that showcases Minnesota on a national and international level and makes Minnesotans proud."
The media members convened at the New Stadium Preview Center to receive updates from MFSA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen and Mortenson Construction Executive Eric Grenz before donning hard hats, protective eyewear, safety vests and gloves.
Once equipped, they followed the lead of Dave Mansell, general superintendent of the project for Mortenson, for stops that included visiting the event level, the main concourse and the upper concourse.
From the field level, the soaring ridge truss, which will span the length of the building, the queen's post trusses that join it and the concrete ring beam around the stadium's perimeter tested neck flexibility as heads and eyes turned skyward.
Mansell said crews have poured the highest part of the ring beam (at the northwest corner) about 269 feet above the event level and other crews have been installing opaque roofing at the northeast corner. Installation of the translucent ETFE panels that will cover about 60 percent of the roof is scheduled to begin in June and finish by November, when the building is scheduled to be completely enclosed. That will be the next significant milestone, Mansell said.
"We all live in Minnesota and understand winter time here. We've got the summer ahead of us," Mansell said. "By next winter we need to have the building enclosed, the roof on and be able to heat the building. The next winter will be finishes and interior work, so it's a big deal for us to get the façade done."
This year's milder winter than most didn't erase the memories of the brutal one the year before when the project was involved with the early stages of the new stadium (ground broke in Dec. 3, 2013) and the deconstruction of the Metrodome (the last materials were hauled from the site April 17, 2014).
"It was a big deal to get the Metrodome torn down," Mansell said. "As we are all aware, this winter was nothing compared to the last winter. That was a bit challenging with the extreme cold we had. The next big deal was this concrete for the structure is extremely high. We've been performing that and got the high part out of the way. That was a big challenge for all the concrete crews to get up there. They did a great job. They did it professionally, skillfully, without hurting anybody, and now it's just getting the structural steel. Ninety percent of the structural steel is fabricated, so that's a good thing. We can get it when we want it and turn up the screw and get the roof on the building."
Standing on the concrete deck of the main concourse, Mansell pointed out that the width is at least two times and in some areas three times greater than the concourses that existed in the Metrodome.
"One of the things that's different about this building than the Metrodome, if you look out on the concourses, you see the open design," Mansell said. "You can be on the concourse and still look out if something exciting happens. You can still see down to the field from most vantage points, which is a really good thing for the building."
Wilf said the open feeling of the venue that will be enclosed is his favorite feature of the design.
Crews have begun installing glass in an A-frame-shaped area on the east side, and more glass fabricated in Owatonna by Viracon will be used on the west side, allowing a view of the downtown skyline. Glass also will be used on five of the world's largest pivoting glass doors.
"It's very exciting," Wilf said. "So much planning and work has gone into it from so many people at the Vikings, Mortenson, HKS, the authority, so many good people, professionally have put effort into it, the construction workers, and I think it's a building that everyone in Minnesota and all Vikings fans are going to be proud of."
The tour also offered an up-close view of the structural steel that will support the video board at the east end of the stadium that will be made in Redwood Falls by Daktronics. Another board that is slightly larger will be mounted at the west end. The tour ended with a view of a small area of zinc panels on the northeast exterior that will be part of the skin of the building and cover the tannish insulation layer that is visible now.
Kelm-Helgen said the facility will be unique to the United States and world. She said the project is going smoothly because of the teamwork between the Vikings, MFSA, Mortenson and HKS. In addition to the wide-ranging attention Kelm-Helgen expects the completed stadium to garner, she said "it's important to take note of what this means for Minnesota."
"Mortenson leading us on this construction project has really ensured this is about Minnesota jobs and companies," Kelm-Helgen said. "Over 90 percent of the work that has gone into this project has been done by Minnesota companies."
Grenz said more than $400 million of work has been installed on the project that is projected to cost $1.061 billion. The project is benefitting from the daily efforts of about 900 dedicated workers on site, with minorities, women and veterans making up more than 40 percent of the workforce.
Of the 228 Minnesota-based firms working on site, Grenz said 55 are owned by women and 33 are owned by minorities. He said the work on the high-roof steel is "in full swing" on the lead of Danny's Construction, a woman-owned Minnesota business.
"We've erected about 5,000 tons (of the 11,000 tons of steel erecting the roof," Grenz said. "We have five of the 11 queen's post trusses that will be erected as of today. We have two more pieces of the ridge truss that will go into place over the course of the next few months here and we plan to de-center the ridge truss, which means we'll remove the temporary shoring this summer and rely on the ridge truss to tie back to the ring beam. The steel activity will take us through the end of September of this year when the scope of that work will be done, just in time for the ETFE roof to be finished up and installed by November of this year."
View images of the snow deflector being installed at the new Vikings stadium.
Mansell walked reporters through a four-dimensional computer model that has kept the project on schedule and helped crews avoid delays of any significance that sometimes occur with projects of this scale.
"We've moved 850,000 yards of dirt, poured 80,000 yards of concrete, and when you come here every day, you kind of get focused on what we need to do next, not what we've already done, but it's really humbling when you look back," Mansell said. "There's not a better workforce anywhere in the United States of America. We've got to credit them. Their dedication and their expertise is the heart of our success, our workforce. It's get the roof on the building and the enclosure done. That's a big deal for us right now. We're going to stay focused on that all summer long. We're going to have the building enclosed Nov. 1st and ready for the 2015-16 winter."
While Mansell's primary focus will be on what's next instead of what's been accomplished, he did say he appreciates the significant nature of the project.
"I've never worked on anything this magnificent and probably never will again," Mansell said.