Next season will be the Minnesota Vikings' last in the 31-year-old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and fans of the purple and gold can look forward to blue lips and red cheeks as they shiver through two seasons of old-school outdoor football.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said Friday that the team plans to play at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, while the team's new stadium gets built at the Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.
Team officials and the state authority overseeing construction convened at the dome Friday to finalize the deal for Minneapolis firm Mortenson Construction to earn $12.5 million to build the new stadium. That fee could reach $15 million if the firm meets performance incentives, but could be lowered if the construction lags. Mortenson also built the Minnesota Twins' Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium.
The Vikings had hoped to play only one season at the outdoor stadium, which is about a 10-minute drive from the Metrodome. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority had looked into starting construction while the Metrodome still stood, but authority chair Michelle Kelm-Helgen said that proved too difficult.
Plans now call for the Metrodome to be torn down in February 2014 and for the new stadium to be ready to open by July 1, 2016.
"The Vikings are operating under the assumption that 2013 is our last season in the Metrodome," Bagley said.
University spokesman Steve Henneberry stressed that the school and the team were still negotiating details, but said the deal would be finalized soon.
"There's no reason to think two years will be a problem," he said. A May letter of intent set a tentative deal for the Vikings to pay the school $3 million a season for up to four seasons.
The decision puts a definite expiration date on the quirky dome, a muffin-shaped, Teflon-coated structure that opened in 1982 and was once a focal point of Minnesota professional sports and countless other events — from monster truck shows to rock concerts to high school tournaments. In addition to being the home field for the Vikings and the Twins — who won two World Series there — the Timberwolves played their first NBA season in the Metrodome in 1989. The Super Bowl was played there two years later, followed four months after that by the NCAA men's basketball Final Four.
The Twins left in 2009 for Target Field, leaving only the Vikings as the Metrodome's major tenant. Quarterback Brett Favre's renaissance came that fall, reaching its high point in a Monday night win over his former team, the rival Green Bay Packers.
The dome's inflatable roof collapsed under heavy snow during a 2010 blizzard, forcing the Vikings to play two home games elsewhere, including one at TCF Bank Stadium on a cold, snowy December night. Under the rebuilt roof the following season, the Vikings tallied a franchise-worst 3-13 record.
The '14 and '15 seasons will be the first the Vikings play outdoors since abandoning Bloomington's Metropolitan Stadium at the end of the 1981 season.
In addition to the annual payment from the team to the school, the two would split money that comes in from concessions, sponsorship and advertising — likely about $50,000 a game.
The plan is for the new $975 million stadium to be enclosed. But Bagley said that Mortenson would help the Vikings obtain cost estimates for potentially including a retractable roof, wall or window, or a combination of those.
"The Vikings are very interested in a retractable feature," Bagley said. He said a decision on that is likely within 90 days.
Mortenson's fee amounts to 1.7 percent of total construction costs. Senior Vice President John Wood said the company's initial bid to the authority was 1.95 percent.
Kelm-Helgen and Bagley said they were glad to be able to hire a Minnesota firm, but that Mortenson was competitive with firms from other states that bid. Mortenson said the project would generate 7,500 jobs for Minnesota construction workers; Kelm-Helgen said it would be "the largest construction project the state has ever seen."
Dallas-based HKS Architects is designing the stadum. Kelm-Helgen said an initial design would likely be released in March.
Associated Press reporter Dave Campbell contributed to this report from Eden Prairie, Minn.