Minneapolis — It's not much to look at since the roof collapsed, but the 29-year-old Metrodome soon may technically be in better shape than ever.
Dome officials think it may get a new multi-million dollar roof, for the price of a $25,000 insurance deductible. Facility director Steve Maki said the Dome will get at least one upgrade. The center of the roof's sound-deadening liner is already being reconfigured.
"One of the outcomes is we're restoring the acoustics, but we're also allowing heat transfer to better melt snow off the top of the roof," Maki said.
That well may prevent future deflations like the one on December 12 the resulted from heavy accumulations of snow.
Even Ted Mondale, the chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which runs the place, concedes the Metrodome is a solid option for football.
"The thing is built like a brick bunker. You know the thing can last a long time," Mondale said.
However, he's at the Capitol these days, leading the charge to replace it.
"The Metrodome just doesn't have the facilities necessary to have the teams be competitive," he said. "Clearly, box space is important. The ability to get to the bathroom and back during a game is important. There's a number of amenities that would make the team competitive that the current structure doesn't have."
For the most part those "amenities" would be charged to fans, resulting in more money to the Vikings.
For instance, the Dome is one of only two active NFL stadiums without so-called club seating. Those are typically wider seats -- sometimes two or three more inches -- with more legroom or extra padding. They're usually in prime locations, like the 50-yard line.
In some places, the club seats bring in almost twice the revenue of a standard seat. And in newer venues, like the Indianapolis Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium, they account for nearly one-in-five seats. It's a system that could bring a team a third more ticket revenue without putting more fans in the stadium.
The Metrodome also has the NFL's sixth lowest proportion of luxury suites -- another lucrative revenue source for the Vikings.
But fixing that doesn't necessarily require a brand new stadium.
The Buffalo Bills nearly doubled the suites at Ralph Wilson Stadium in a 1998 upgrade, and the Miami Dolphins have proposed tearing out and reconfiguring the lower level seating at 34-year-old Sun Life Stadium.
The best example of retrofitting an existing stadium, though, may be the BC Place stadium in Vancouver. Spurred by a deflation in 2007, workers removed the inflatable roof last year. It was a bigger version of the Metrodome's. They're replacing it with a cable-supported retractable version.
"We did several other things. We conducted a refurbishment of the stadium, where all of the concession stands, washrooms, suites, signage, lighting and sound was all upgraded prior to the Winter Olympics," said Warren Buckley, the executive director of Vancouver's stadium authority.
They did all of this for a cost of $560 million. The three most recent NFL stadiums have cost an average of $1.2 billion.
But four years ago, the Vikings all but ruled out a remodel, with 150 suites and 7,500 club seats. Now, the Vikings say they're not talking about the matter until they roll out a stadium plan later this month.
State Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, will likely carry the plan through the Legislature. She said the cost of a remodel is marginally less than starting over, and that the Dome isn't worth saving anyway.
"It's actually quite small for the market that it could bring in, so there is a loss of revenue in that department," Rosen said. "Also, the cost of refurbishing that is very, very high; so its' prohibitive."
Ted Mondale said Gov. Mark Dayton will likely agree, and the cost of an update won't bring in enough money to justify the effort.
And that -- rather than a suspect roof -- is likely to spell the end of the Metrodome.