Let us all take a moment of silence to mourn the loss of something that has been near and dear to us for a long time.
The Metrodome is now, officially, dead. After today’s Vikings game, the process of dismantling it is beginning. Like doctors harvesting organs from the freshly deceased, construction workers–or are they really deconstruction workers?–will remove seats, signage, artificial turf, and, I’m certain, anything with value that can be sold for other uses. The roof will be deflated soon, and the demolition process of what’s left is supposed to begin in February.
Oh sure, it’s a building we all love to hate. Or hate loving. During outdoor Gopher football games in November, I’m certain there’s a subset of us who wishes we were still inside watching the game. At least there, the marching band’s instruments didn’t freeze up during the final home game of the season as they did at this year’s game.
The dome wasn’t really visually appealing. It really was just completely utilitarian in its design, which is a testament to our leaders back in the late 1970s, who ensured that this new stadium, pushed for by the Twins and Vikings, came in on time, under budget, and didn’t put any unfair financial burdens on taxpayers. But it wasn’t out of scale compared to its surroundings, and really didn’t offend with its appearance, either–it was a soft, fluffy-topped squat structure that didn’t go out of its way to call attention to itself.
Which is something that can’t be said for its replacement, which looks like it was pooped out of a spaceship.
Like it or not, the dome was a unique structure, one of only a handful of air-supported domes in the entire world, and was, up until earlier today, one of a very few left operating. Sure, the design has its problems–like a few deflations caused by weather, or the need to heat up the entire building to melt snow on the roof. But it was also great fun to be blown out of the building at the end of a game when they opened the doors to allow people to bypass the revolving doors.
It’s a little weird, though, I must admit, that the entirety of this stadium’s life fits into my lifetime. Prior to that, all of the stadia in town were built ages before I was born. But I remember going to the first actual game held at the dome, which wasn’t an official game at all. It was April 3, 1982, and the Twins had an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies. I was on spring break, went to work with mom in the morning, then walked across downtown to the dome for the afternoon game, for which I believe I paid only $3 for my general admission ticket. The Twins were, as usual at the time, a horrible team, with the youth movement of unknown rookies like Frank Viola, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, and Tom Brunansky joining the veterans Roy Smalley, Ron Washington, Butch Wynegar, and John Castino.
There was practically no one in the stands for that game, and I don’t entirely understand why. But on that drizzly day outside, the inside was at least dry enough to get a game in. Sure, there were leaks in the roof making a puddle in right-center, and another somewhere down the right field line, but the grounds crew would come out a couple of times during the game and squeegee it off out toward the warning track. I seat-jumped about every inning, and, as probably could have been predicted, I was in love with this technological marvel of the sports world. The scoreboard was monochrome and didn’t show replays. When you were out in the concourse, you were completely divorced from the game, unless you found a monitor to watch it on, and that was assuming that the one camera they had for the purpose was properly following the action. And, to my surprise, there were still obstructed-view seats way up in the upper deck.
There were some horrible teams that played there. And a few good ones. The dome became known for its ability to be very, very loud. And it brought some notable events to the area: the World Series, the baseball All-Star Game, NCAA basketball tournaments, and even, for one year, NBA basketball (yep, I saw one Timberwolves game at the dome when the Celtics came to town, Larry Bird and all).
Our Gopher football seats were on the fold-out section that formed the right-field wall for baseball games. It didn’t take too long for fans to realize you could make a lot of noise by having thousands of people stomp their feet on the metal base that the seats were attached to.
How far things have come in 31 years.
I’ve been to 31 years worth of Twins, Vikings and Gopher games there. And, for the most part, I love having Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium. I haven’t been to a Vikings game in many years, so that may be part of the reason for my lack of enthusiasm for their new field. But I’ll still watch its building with interest, and I’ll be anxious to see what it looks like inside once it’s finished.
But that’s still three years off. And I have some mourning to do. May you rest in peace, Metrodome. We all loved and hated you.
See you tomorrow.