MINNEAPOLIS — When the Metrodome was demolished after years of roof maintenance, the architects of U.S. Bank Stadium wanted to construct a venue for the people of Minnesota.
Mark Williams and Loretta Fulvio of the firm HKS understood the historic value of “The Dome” would be difficult to replace, but the developers aimed to design a place locals could enjoy in and out of the Vikings season.
Finished in July 2016, the final product features the first-ever transparent ETFE stadium roof, which is made from a lightweight, heavy-duty resin. Not only does the material’s durability protect the structure from Minnesota’s wintry climate, but its translucence provides “an outdoor vibe while indoors.”
“It’s unlike any other experience when you come through those gates,” Fulvio said. “It’s almost like the temple of light. It’s just gorgeous. Whether it’s a sunny, snowy, or rainy day, it’s full of light.”
“The value of being in the sun on the coldest day is a simple concept that holds great value,” Williams said. “It’s just never been applied to a sports venue. The traditional mind-set has been to completely isolate and close ourselves off from cold weather because we want to be in a 70-degree indoor environment. But we’re celebrating the sun.”
In addition to maximizing the sunlight for its patrons, the steepness of the roof’s angle facilitates a natural shedding of the snow — an important feature during the winter months. The climate, however, was just one of the factors considered throughout the design process.
Through their past projects, including the homes of the Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts, Williams, Fulvio, and HKS discovered other stadiums across the country are “more similar than they are different.” Their team began studying the region, the demographics, and the culture of Minneapolis to learn how they could best fulfill the needs of the city.
“The outcome shaped and molded the look and feel of the stadium more than anything else,” Williams said. “It was shaped by Minneapolis.”
What they found was residents valued the city’s natural beauty and its year-round outdoor offerings. The presence of sunlight certainly helps maintain a sense of naturalness to the stadium atmosphere, but the architects decided to take it one step further with the design of the concourse.
In an effort to mimic the feeling of walking in a park, Fulvio opted away from the typical oblong tracks with rings of concessions. She instead focused on creating a “street meander” environment with organic walking paths that vary in angles from zone to zone.
“No part of it repeats itself,” Fulvio said. “As you make your way through the concourse, it just gives you something different and unfolds a journey.”
Williams likens the setup to having pieces of parts of Foxborough’s Patriot Place brought into Gillette: “We’re trying to sprinkle and embed those elements into the walls of the stadium.”
The defining characteristics of U.S. Bank Stadium — along with its 66,000-plus seating capacity — have made it a popular choice for major sporting events, including Super Bowl LII and the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, and concerts, such as Coldplay’s recent A Head Full of Dreams Tour and Taylor Swift’s upcoming Reputation Tour.
But even when there’s nothing scheduled, Minnesotans are welcome in on almost any day.
“It’s become a recreation center during the offseason for outdoor activities that all Minnesotans love,” Fulvio said. “When it gets really, really cold or starts really, really snowing, it is a place where they can come skate, run, walk, and really use the stadium as their indoor park.”
“This stadium was built as the people’s stadium.”