In May of last year, the Dallas Cowboys training facility collapsed under high winds, leaving numerous employees injured and one man paralyzed.
Incidents like these illustrate why the Vikings, the NFL, and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission should consider themselves extremely lucky that the collapse of the Metrodome’s inflatable roof happened in the early hours of a day in which a sold out crowd was expected to attend a game. If the timing had been different, we could very well be discussing loss from a human standpoint instead of a financial standpoint.
There were no reported injuries following the ordeal and the financial fallout is not fully known, and right now the Vikings are faced with what has become, essentially, the league’s biggest inconvenience.
The effort to relocate two games in which 63,000 people were expected to attend is no small feat and they seem to recognize that they are leaving plenty of ticket holders hanging dry with their plan for Monday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium.
Vikings Vice President of Public Affairs spoke with the media on Friday due in large part to the negative reaction to the seating plan that they have been forced to adjust on the fly.
“We’re trying to appeal to our fans to hang in there with us,” Bagley said. “We got dealt a tough hand. Forty-eight hours ago, a little bit more, we found out we were not playing our game at the Metrodome. They told us on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Now we are here, we have some of the best ticket people in the world, the NFL, their leadership, their events people, to put together a plan that is the best we can do under bad circumstances. Granted, how do you get 63,000 into 50 [thousand seats]? People aren’t going to be happy. [We're] just trying to appeal to our fans to hang in there with us and just try to consider the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves. In a little more than 48 hours, we had to communicate a ticket plan. This is what we came up with as the best possible situation.”
While there are going to be plenty of disgruntled fans following the announcement of the seating plan which is little more than semi-organized general seating, my opinion is that there is little else that anybody could have done to make this go smoother. At the risk of sounding simplistic, it is what it is.
I believe that bigger questions remain for all parties involved and hopefully we’ll see some of these questions answered in the next few months. Bagley did his best to address some of those questions today.
Earlier this week, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf made it clear that his opinion remains that the Metrodome is not a viable home for the Vikings beyond 2011. However, safety concerns increased to the point that one has to wonder about the team’s willingness to play there in 2011 itself.
“We’re going to have to dig into that and get an honest assessment of that. This is Minnesota, it snows, we’re a hearty bunch, we deal with it. Some people would say, ‘Well, a couple of shingles come off the roof you don’t build a new barn.’ Well, the roof collapsed. We have concerns about the safety of the facility going forward. We’ll deal with that after the game [on Monday] as well as we’ll deal with the financial and economic impacts of what happened.”
He did, however, say that the Vikings would most likely be playing in the Metrodome in 2011.
“I’m saying we have concerns about the safety and the viability of that structure going forward. We’ll deal with that in the near future.”
I would say it is foolish for the Vikings to commit to playing in the Metrodome in 2011 until an investigation into the roof’s failure is conducted and completed. From a liability standpoint, if it were my organization, I would want every assurance in the world that this cannot reoccur before I pack my employees and fans into the building.
I have reached out to the MSFC’s Director of Facilities and Engineering Steve Maki and he accepted my request for an email interview. While I have not received any answers yet, one particular answer I am eager to get back relates to when we can expect an investigation into the matter to begin and who will be conducting it. There are a lot of tough questions that need to be asked about this situation, but nobody in the media seems eager to ask them when the more dramatic stories like seating arrangements, frozen turf, and the lack of alcohol for Monday’s game sadly generate more interest than figuring out what went wrong and if it can happen again.
Another interesting question is if any of the involved parties will be reaching out to the fans who have taken a financial hit in an effort to attend games that they were then unable to attend. I also asked Maki to give us the MSFC’s stance on this issue, and the Vikings sound like they are focused on getting through this final home game before they even look at their own financial damages incurred.
“I think we’ll sort that out once we get past the game,” Bagley said. “We haven’t really focused on it. There’s, again, significant losses and we have concerns.”
Bagley said that the sole reason for choosing TCF Bank Stadium to host this game was to play in front of a Minnesota crowd, not because the team’s 50th anniversary celebration was also scheduled for this weekend.
“We were determined to have our game in front of our fans,” he said. “We got killed in Detroit. We lost our home-field advantage. We lost significant revenues, and this will be a loss, too, in terms of revenues. But the fan experience, get in front of our fans — the excitement is starting to build and that’s where the hardest thing to do was to sort out the issue, and we did the best of our ability, and now let’s turn our attention to the excitement of the opportunity.”
While Bagley presented a tone of excitement about playing outdoors, and recognized that their home would likely be TCF Bank Stadium while any new stadium is being constructed, he also made it clear that the venue should not be considered a long term solution to the Vikings ongoing desire for a new stadium.
“It’s a great college football stadium,” Bagley said. “It’s got 38, 39 suites. It’s got 50,000 seats and benches. It’s not an NFL stadium. But for Monday night under these extraordinary circumstances, it’s going to be a great experience. We’re determined ot play our game in front of our fans, because our only other alternative, and you guys might not have liked our ticket distribution plan, but the only other alternative was to play somewhere else. And we’re not going to do that again. TCF will work under the extraordinary circumstances that we face. Long-term solution, it’s not a long-term NFL stadium.”
I have to give the Vikings credit for letting Bagley come out and give some seemingly honest and straightforward answers during a time in which many fans and much of the media are frustrated.
After the Vikings final home game is out of the way, I hope questions of a more meaningfully specific nature are asked about this incident in the form of an investigation. My reason for this is that while I cheer for the Vikings to remain in Minnesota, I hope the stadium battle is fought by using facts instead of P.R. and emotion, for the sake of the Minnesota tax payers.
I also hope that somebody is planning on making it right with the fans who spent money to attend these games and are now forced to eat the costs having nothing to show for it.