Seeking Answers To Metrodome's Deflated Roof On Sunday, the Minneapolis Metrodome's inflated roof buckled under the weight of heavy snow. NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Roy Terwilliger, chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns and operates the Metrodome.
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Seeking Answers To Metrodome's Deflated Roof

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Seeking Answers To Metrodome's Deflated Roof

Seeking Answers To Metrodome's Deflated Roof

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

BLOCK: First of all, what happened to the roof over the Metrodome?

BLOCK: But because of the danger to those people who were up there, just the weather and frostbite and everything else, they were removed at 6 p.m. on Saturday and they were going to resume again on Sunday morning. However, 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, the small portion of the roof gave way - its fabric...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

BLOCK: ...that caused the weight of the snow to shift more towards the middle into - to tear out two panels in the middle. And the roof was deflated.

SIEGEL: Now, the roof had deflated famously once before. How rare must conditions be for this to happen with the (unintelligible)?

BLOCK: Well, pretty rare because we've had - in 1991, we had a record snowfall - actually, more snow that time than we had this time, but the weather was warmer, and so that was the big difference. But it is designed to take care of this; except that when you get the rare combination of the wind and the cold and the snow altogether, it didn't work.

SIEGEL: Well, could you say of this event either that there's something flawed in the design or that perhaps it's just so old that it needs replacing?

BLOCK: Well, we don't think it's structurally inadequate. The facility itself was open for business in 1982. However, last summer, we had an inspection. We had routine inspection every four years of the roof. And we were advised as a commission that it was fine, that the outer membrane of the facility was in very good shape, and that we would be fine for another four years and would test again at that time.

SIEGEL: Is it a given that that stadium has to have a roof on, that you couldn't play the way the Bears just played in the snowfall in Chicago?

BLOCK: Well, you know, when it gets cold, it becomes pretty miserable out there, and so we become very accustomed to it over these last - since 1982. Prior to that, as you may recall, the Minnesota Vikings became famous under Bud Grant for wanting to play outdoors in December and January in their playoff games to psychologically win the battle, if not physically win it.

SIEGEL: Yeah. You're saying they played very successfully outdoors in the cold.

BLOCK: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: I wasn't trying to strategize on behalf of the Vikings, but I guess people would just feel it's that much less comfortable to go to a football game (unintelligible).

BLOCK: I think so. I think we've become soft now that we have...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: ...(unintelligible).

SIEGEL: Well, the Metrodome itself, apart from having dome in its title, could it function without a roof? That is, could you just play there with the thing being open?

BLOCK: No, you couldn't. It's not designed for that. We have suites and everything that rely upon warm weather. So we have a lot of freeze ups.

SIEGEL: Now, as I'm sure you know, several years ago, a college senior's senior essay on the Metrodome was published as a book, and that college senior grew up to be Amy Klobuchar, now the senior senator from Minnesota.

BLOCK: That's right.

SIEGEL: I read her account of the 1991 deflation of the roof, and it was fixed up in four days. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Her account was of a 1981 deflation of the roof; the record snowfall in 1991 did not cause the dome to give way.]

BLOCK: Yes.

SIEGEL: This time, how many days is it going to take?

BLOCK: Well, we're waiting for the design construction firm that we look to for this expertise flying by private plane to Minneapolis. And we will know that by the end of the day.

SIEGEL: Mr. Terwilliger, thank you very much for talking with us.

BLOCK: You're most welcome.

SIEGEL: Roy Terwilliger spoke to us from Minneapolis, where he is chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

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