Twins' departure puts future of Metrodome in questionby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — This weekend, the Minnesota Twins will celebrate their long-anticipated departure from the Metrodome, the second of three major tenants to leave the aging stadium.
The building's owners are trying to find new events to fill the calendar, but in the meantime they say they'll have to make some cutbacks to make up for the lost revenue.
The Metrodome appears to be deflating. Last year, the Minnesota Gophers football team left and took seven home games with them. And next year, the Twins will play their 81 home games at their new ballpark, Target Field.
That has Metrodome officials searching for more events to fill the spring and summer calendar.
"We still have motorsports events," said Dennis Alfton, director of operations at the Metrodome. "We have Monster Jams and we have motorcycle racing, but those occur in the December to March period."
Alfton hopes to get a few more motorsports events on the calendar., but there aren't enough monster truck rallies and back-flipping motocross stunt rider exhibitions to make up for the $1.6 million in revenue they'll lose next year without the Twins.
"We will be reducing our staff because of the reduction in the Twins games and the Gophers games," Afton said. "We will be laying off 12 people come February 1 of next year."
Alfton said management as well as custodial positions will be a part of the job cuts.
They've looked around the country, but Alfton said there aren't a lot of non-professional sports events for the dome to host. He said the dome can't compete with the Minneapolis Convention Center for meetings and trade shows, and most big concerts are held at the Target Center or the Xcel Center in St. Paul.
Alfton said the dome will focus on attracting more high school baseball and football games, and he said the dome has recently become the site of the Youth in Music marching band competitions.
"We're doing two weekends of that. That's a new event that was developed a few years ago and very important with high school bands," he said. "They come in and compete; not only bands from Minnesota, but from outside the state."
Alfton said the events can attract about 5,000 to 10,000 people - mostly the band members and their friends and family members. The dome can seat more than 50,000 for a football game.
The loss of the Twins will also have an impact outside the Dome as well, particularly for the owners of the nearby surface parking lots. Aaron Hagar is a consultant for the East Downtown Council. The council hired Hagar to survey the development potential of the area. Hagar walked around near the dome and counted surface parking spaces and wrote down how much they charge.
"I just used a 50 percent full figure as an estimate for realizing that not every Twins game sells out," Hagar said. "But that there's some revenue coming in every game."
By his conservative estimate, a typical lot owner stands to lose a quarter of their business. However, someone who fills their lot each game could stand to lose 40 percent of their annual revenue.
The remaining major dome tenant is the Minnesota Vikings. The football team brings in $6 million in rent and concessions each year for the Metrodome. But for the last several years, Vikings officials have complained that the outdated stadium isn't making the team enough money.
The Vikings made plans for a new stadium in Blaine, but that deal fell through. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the best option for the team is to build a new stadium on the dome site.
"It's got a tremendous infrastructure advantage with roads and bridges and utilities that support a stadium now," Bagley said. "So there's an opportunity to reconstruct the Metrodome, recycle the site, be smart and cost efficient as we go about this. It's also got some surrounding development potential."
The Vikings bought some property near the dome and have options on a few other parcels, but Bagley said they're not making any more moves until the legislature resumes next year. The team is trying to work out a public financing deal to help them pay for the new stadium.
The Twins will begin a new era under the sun at Target Field next April, but the dome will stay dark for most of the summer unless officials can find new ways to bring people in under the big white roof.
- Morning Edition, 10/02/2009, 7:25 a.m.