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Published May 15 2013

Forum editorial: Football’s crystal cathedral

It’s been likened to an alien spaceship landing; a gigantic greenhouse; a dream job for the people who make Windex. But whatever the early descriptions of the approved design of the new Vikings football stadium, there is little doubt it is extraordinary, and extraordinarily expensive.

The Vikings organization revealed its glass football palace earlier this week to mostly positive reviews. The yet-to-be named 65,000-seat building will feature a translucent roof and moveable front windows. It has so much glass in its controlled climate structure that natural light will make it seem like team and fans are outdoors, said enthusiastic Vikings officials. It will boast the world’s largest transparent roof. Now that is impressive.

The design was unanimously approved by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. The plan now goes to the city of Minneapolis for review. If all clicks on schedule, the $975 million building will be ready for play in 2016. It will replace the 31-year-old Metrodome, which the Vikes will vacate after this year’s season, and then play for two seasons at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.

While there still are minor glitches in the funding package, the project is moving ahead. When the 2012 Legislature under the guidance of then Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, agreed to a public/private funding scheme, the stadium plan took off. Lanning has reason to smile.

Nevertheless, a design that some observers will see as quite radical is sure to stir the comment pot. To be sure, traditionalists who still believe football should be played outside on grass will growl and grumble. And it’s a guarantee that snobs in the architecture criticism business will look down their snoots at the design. But by any objective assessment, the sketches based on the stadium’s architecture reveal a truly spectacular edifice.

Look at it this way: Until the Vikings revealed their stadium, probably the most famous glass-dominated structure in the nation was the Rev. Robert Schuler’s Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. (Since in bankruptcy and sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif.) Schuler’s building, of course, is a traditional church where hymns rise through the sunlight that streams through the translucent structure. Put a buck on the collection plate and go home. The Vikings cathedral will be a secular place, sort of – where the American worship of football will resonate off the crystal walls and roof. Put hundreds of bucks on the ticket plate just to get in. Hallelujah and amen!


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