Metrodome collapse scrambles spring baseball games

The snow-damaged Metrodome roof won't be fixed until at least March, affecting hundreds of college baseball games and forcing the Minnesota Twins to find a new venue for their annual winter festival, a facility official said Wednesday.

Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said the baseball coaches were notified this week. The Twins Fest, which attracts thousands of baseball fans each year, was scheduled for Jan. 28-30.

"That event will go on, but it won't be here," Lester said.

Twins spokesman Kevin Smith said the new venue will be announced soon, but the team expects the event will be on the same dates and the same roster of current and retired players will be on hand to meet fans.

Three panels of the fabric roof collapsed Dec. 12 during a storm that dumped 17 inches of snow on Minneapolis. Lester said at least nine panels must be replaced, but consultants are analyzing samples to see if even more must be swapped out.

The Minnesota Vikings are the only professional team to call the Metrodome home after the Twins moved into a new outdoor ballpark last season. The roof collapse forced the Vikings to move their final two home games of the year and they lost both.

Lester said the Metrodome typically hosts hundreds of college baseball games in early spring as teams throughout the Upper Midwest look for a place to play before the snow melts.

He said about 300 baseball games were scheduled for February and March in the dome, including about 40 University of Minnesota games and 250 small college games. A few high school games were also scheduled.

"We play a very heavy baseball schedule in February," Lester said, with games typically scheduled from 8 a.m. to midnight several days a week.

He said he didn't know where all those games would be played because there are few facilities like the Metrodome around. "You get used to it," he said. "Everybody takes it for granted."

The University of Minnesota baseball team will be unable to play its home games in February and March at the Metrodome. That includes the annual Legends and Pro Alumni Game on Feb. 5, the Gophers' game against Washington State on March 3 and all six games of the Dairy Queen Classic.

"With 32 games at the Metrodome the well-being of the facility obviously has a big impact on our program," Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson said in a news release. Minnesota will work with the programs it was scheduled to play in the Metrodome in March to make alternate plans.

Corey Kemp, head coach of St. Scholastica in Duluth, said he was trying to reschedule his eight dome dates for later in the season at campus fields.

He said in a news release that he would like to play at least one game before March, when he will take his team to Florida for a series of games.

"Our guys will go stir crazy if they have to practice in the Wellness Center for six weeks before actually playing a game," he said.