MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings' Metrodome has deflated for the last time.
Officials from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority opened the stadium's relief vents to begin the deflation at 7:15 a.m. Saturday in downtown Minneapolis. Fans providing the air that supports the roof were turned off. The 10 acres of Teflon-coated fabric were done deflating in 35 minutes.
Bill McCarthy, vice chairman of the authority, called it "a sad and exciting day at the same time." The deflation and the demolition of the Dome beginning next week will make way for construction of a new $1 billion Vikings stadium.
The muffin-shaped dome opened in 1982 and was once a focal point of Minnesota professional sports. 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 Twins left in 2009 for Target Field, leaving only the Vikings as the Metrodome's major tenant.
The authority gave the go-ahead despite concerns about weather conditions. According to the National Weather Service, between 4 and 5 inches of snow fell in the area overnight. Winds were a steady 5 to 10 mph Saturday morning.
The roof silently deflated under gray, snowy skies, sagging first in the middle. When the process was done, the stadium looked like a concave dish, rimmed with snow.
The morning snow was both a help and a safety concern, said Steve Maki, the authority's director of facilities and engineering. "We moved it up to do it as soon as we were ready," he said, noting officials were concerned that if the winds increased, the deflation would have been delayed.
Officials were worried that stiff winds could have turned the roof into "a big sail," Maki said.
While Saturday was the fifth time the Dome's roof has collapsed, it was the first time it was deflated intentionally. On four prior occasions, the roof collapsed due to extreme weather conditions, including the Dec. 11, 2010, incident where excessive snow caused the roof to cave in.
Crews will begin demolishing the rest of the building Monday. The new stadium is expected to be ready in time for the 2016 NFL season and will be located in roughly the same spot as the Metrodome. The team plans to play at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
St. Paul-based excavator Frattalone Companies will recycle the Dome's roof fabric, cutting it up to be used in future construction projects. The entire roof deflated without the fabric ripping, Maki said.
Already the turf and most of the bright-blue seats have been removed, leaving a kind of concrete shell inside the stadium.
Few people were out and about in the early morning hours, and those who were walking by the Dome didn't notice the deflation occurring.
"Really? That's crazy," said Jon Silveira, a Minneapolis resident who was going to work as the roof silently sunk. "I didn't notice it."
When asked if he was sad to see the Dome go, he replied, "No, but I'd rather not pay for the new one."