U.S. Bank Stadium exterior repairs to cost a bomb


US Bank Stadium Image: Minnesota Vikings

It was not long back that the enclosed stadium in Minnesota, United States – U.S. Bank Stadium – was opened in August 2016 – but, cracks have already started surfacing in the structure.

The black zinc panels that make U.S. Bank Stadium so recognizable have caused water problems almost since the stadium opened, and the officials said the panels will have to all be replaced.

This means that the $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium must undergo extensive repairs on its exterior, which will cost more than $21 million.

The U.S. Bank Stadium is the home ground of the professional American football team based in Minneapolis – Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) announced recently that it had already reached an agreement with the lead contractor on the stadium, M.A. Mortensen Company, and seven other firms involved in the stadium’s design and construction to fix the problems with the exterior.

A mediated settlement was arrived at following closed-door talks with the Mortenson Co., architect HKS Inc., M.G. McGrath Inc., Custom Drywall Inc., TRI-Construction, Larson Engineering Inc., Thornton Tomasetti Inc., and Studio Five Architects.

None of the aforementioned parties know what the other will pay, and the contract prohibits them from telling each other the amounts.

Even before the MSFA green lighted the mediated settlement at its monthly meeting held recently, scaffolding had been erected on the northwest corner and removal and replacement work had begun.

The nature and scope of discussions wasn’t revealed until recent weeks when Vekich said the sides were close to an agreement.

In all, 250,000 square feet of the exterior will be torn off and replaced.

The distinctive black zinc panels that clad the outside of the Vikings home and are the high point of the stadium was more vulnerable to wind and water damage than what was originally thought which led to several of the panels to fall off the stadium several months before it opened in August 2016.

“At the end of the day, we will have a superior solution,” said Michael Vekich, Chairman of MSFA, the public body that runs the building on behalf of taxpayers.

As part of the agreement, the entire black paneling will be replaced by a “completely new, enhanced exterior enclosure”.

The $21 million work over the next two years will be split between the contractors, with neither the taxpayer nor the Vikings required to pay money for the repair work.

“Reaching an agreement took time, but all parties were committed to the process and achieving a fair and appropriate outcome,” a joint statement from MSFA and Mortensen said.

“The MSFA and the companies associated with the design, engineering, and construction all have exceptionally high expectations for this facility. The remaining issues and claims were tied primarily to the stadium’s exterior enclosure, which experienced some wind damage and water issues following the construction of the building,” the statement further read.

“While those individual issues were identified and fixed, all parties want to ensure the building performs as intended, both inside and out, for its entire lifetime. The new, enhanced exterior enclosure will be designed, engineered and constructed differently than the original enclosure, and it will provide water barrier redundancies not included in the original design,” the statement further read.

“It will have a similar appearance, which is an important design element, but there may be some minor visible variations,” the statement added.

Media reports quoted John Wood, Senior Vice-President of Mortenson who was in charge of the original stadium project, as saying that the company was “embarrassed” by the problems the building has had encountered.

He added that Mortenson can’t change what happened, but the company can “do the right thing” and fix it.

Vekich and Wood worked to portray the development as an amicable solution to an unfortunate problem.

Wood further explained, “The leaks weren’t substantial. Water wasn’t gushing into the building, and it could easily be mopped up. Nonetheless, it gave everyone reason to be concerned. We could see some repetition of these problems.”

Vekich said when he arrived in the summer of 2017, the panels had been reinforced, but questions remained about whether that would be enough to address the leaks in the long term.

Mortenson requested mediation in the fall of 2017 and negotiations began in April 2018.

Wood termed the response “Very Minnesotan. The situation could have easily deteriorated into a fight and a lawsuit dragging out for years”.

Wood informed that the panels and material had been tested before construction, but conditions, especially on the northwest prow, were more acute than what was expected.

The loose panels, moisture and leaks “gave all of us reason to question whether or not this exterior wall system was going to pass the test of time”, he further explained.

Over the next two years, workers will go section-by-section to remove panels and replace them.

The new zinc panels will be of same color and dimension. Wood offered the explanation that due to this “nine out of 10 people wouldn’t notice the difference. The existing zinc panels were designed to act as a rain screen, allowing some water through them”.

The replacement panels will be designed to repel water. Also, before the replacements are installed, a second waterproof membrane will be added to the existing shield on the building.

Therefore, there will be two water barriers instead of one, plus the panels, which all are designed to keep the building dry.

Vekich and Wood informed that the construction work will not come in the way of events or Vikings games at the stadium.

The Vikings, who are not a part of the settlement, issued a written statement saying they appreciated the work “to find a permanent solution to the exterior enclosure that preserves the long-term future of this community asset”.

Before construction began, the main concern for the building was whether the transparent plastic roof would be able to withstand the severe Minnesota winters.

But, the roof has held up through cold, heat and storms, and it repelled snow accumulation as designed.

In 2012, the Legislature approved paying $348 million in State funding for the stadium and Minneapolis agreed to pay $150 million. The Vikings covered the rest.

Extensive repair measures are now pending and the zinc panels on the facade of the stadium are leaking and needs to be replaced.

The panels, which play a crucial role in determining the appearance of the stadium next to the glass facade, occupy over 23,000 square meters of the facade of the stadium, which costs over EUR 950 million. The exchange will cost around 19 million euros, but the tab will be picked up by the construction companies who built the stadium.

Since the work involved is quite complex, it is speculated that the repair work will take around two years. Apart from setting up new panels, extra seals will also be required. However, this is no new problem. For the past two years, discussions are on as to who will pay for the damage.

The stadium is underlined by the zinc panels, but they have become kind of eyesore for the venue as some of these panels fell down due to strong winds.

Although moisture problems appeared on the building as early as 2015, stadium officials and Mortenson downplayed the seriousness of the problem.

Whatever explanations Vekich and Wood might offer now, the bare truth is that the stadium is not yet four years old, and it will be visibly under repair for at least another two years because a signature design element failed.

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