Minnesota Vikings fans expressed strong opinions late Monday about features they want in the team's new stadium, from a retractable roof and more leg room — to it being shaped like a giant castle.
An architect with Dallas-based HKS Sports & Entertainment, which is designing the nearly $1 billion stadium, listened to public comments during a forum in Minneapolis. Mark Williams said the downtown Minneapolis stadium will be architecturally distinct, reflect the personality of the team and of Minnesota, and be suited to host other major events.
But fans had their own quirky ideas. Season ticket holder Jeff Jackson said the stadium's ceiling should have acoustical tiles to make game days louder, while longtime fan Brandon Fraher said it should be shaped in a way to pay tribute to the long-gone world of the real Vikings.
"Ever since I was a kid, I thought that it would be really cool if the Vikings played in something that looked like a castle," said Fraher, from the Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville.
They were among more than a dozen fans and others who sounded off during the forum with requests for everything from a retractable roof to more leg room in the aisles.
Williams, a principal at HKS Inc., which recently scored the $34 million design contract, made no promises to the fans. But he did vow that the stadium would be distinct and well-suited to host events such as rock concerts, pro wrestling and college sports tournaments.
"This building will represent Minneapolis and Minnesota when they show shots of it on Monday Night Football," Williams said.
Several other public forums are planned in upcoming weeks, and Williams said a preliminary design would likely be unveiled early next year.
HKS Inc. designed two of the newest NFL stadiums: Cowboys Stadium in suburban Dallas and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. But the buildings are vastly different. While Cowboys Stadium is rounded and futuristic, Lucas Oil Stadium has the classical look of a traditional college field house.
Ananth Shakar, a St. Paul architect, said he hoped the new Vikings stadium would be more like the Cowboys' stadium. He said it should be a companion to several recent, lauded additions to Minneapolis architecture.
"I'm hoping it's in the tradition of the Guthrie Theater, the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Library," Shakar said. "The architecture of this stadium needs to look to the future, not to the past."
Lynn Garthwaite of Bloomington had a much less lofty request.
"I think it'd be great to be the first stadium with enough leg room that you don't have to stand up when someone in your row leaves for a beer," she said.
Several fans said it should have a real grass field. Advocates for the disabled said it should have a greater level of accessibility than the Metrodome it's replacing, and a number of fans said a retractable roof is a must. That last feature could increase the $975 million price tag, but Williams said it's under active consideration.
"My fantasy would be that it's snowing out, and the roof is open. How cool would that be?" said Larry Spooner, a die-hard Vikings fan who lobbied hard at the Minnesota Capitol for public funding of the stadium. "You should be able to smell the barbeque ribs from the tailgaters."
Officials hope for a ground-breaking later next year, with the stadium to be built roughly on the site of the current Metrodome. The plan is that it will be ready in time for the 2016 football season.
Jeff Jackson of Coon Rapids, a 26-year season ticket holder, said he hoped one feature of the widely disliked Metrodome would survive in its predecessor.
"We're very proud of the fact that we have the loudest, noisiest game day in the NFL," Jackson said. "So what I'd love to see would be acoustical ceiling tiles in the new stadium that would reflect the fan noise right down onto that field."