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Local crews covered in Metrodome roof work

By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

The roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis collapsed on Dec. 12. Area ironworkers are picking up work on the roof rebuild. (AP File Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Minneapolis — The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission has selected a New York-based company to replace the snow-damaged Metrodome roof, but commission members say local workers won’t be left out in the cold.

Birdair was the only company that responded to the commission’s request for a best value contractor to replace the roof, which collapsed under nearly 20 inches of snow during a Dec. 12-13 snowstorm.

The company, which installed the original roof in the early 1980s, will bring about 10 workers to town. But the project eventually will provide jobs for up to 60 workers and create opportunities for local ironworkers and other businesses, said Bill Lester, the commission’s executive director.

Members of the Local 512 Ironworkers Union will provide labor for the project, according to a commission memo.
Birdair’s bid came in at $17.973 million, slightly less than the commission’s $18.3 million estimate. The company scored 91.5 out of a possible 100 points in the best value evaluation, which considers price, qualifications, completion date and other factors.

The overall price is $25 million when engineering fees and other related services are factored in, including assessment since the roof collapsed. The $25 million represents about half of what it cost to build the stadium, which opened in 1982.

The commission expects insurance to cover most of the cost.

Birdair is contractually obligated to complete the work by Aug. 1 so the stadium will be ready for the Minnesota Vikings’ season. The team may not need to play there until mid-August, but extra time is necessary to complete inspections and get a certificate of occupancy.

If Birdair does not meet the Aug. 1 substantial completion date, it faces penalties of $20,000 per calendar day and $700,000 for each scheduled home game the team misses. But if the company completes work before Aug. 1, it is eligible for a $500,000 bonus.

Birdair plans to begin installation as soon as March 30.

Two other contractors were expected to bid on the project: Germany-based Hightex and Dallas-based USA Shade & Fabric Structures, the parent company of FabriTec Structures.

Noting the highly specialized nature of the work, Lester said he was not surprised only one company submitted a bid.

The commission used a best value selection process instead of the traditional lowest responsible bidder method. Under best value, the owner considers factors above and beyond price, including the contractor’s ability to complete the work on time.

Earlier this month, the commission, which operates the Metrodome, elected to replace the roof rather than repair it. Engineers said replacement made the most sense from a public safety standpoint.

The snowstorm damaged four of the roof’s 106 panels, and a fifth panel was intentionally pierced with a shotgun blast to relieve pressure.

Commission officials were nervous a repaired roof would be vulnerable to further damage. A report from Geiger Engineers warned of a “very high” probability a repaired roof could deflate again as a result of “undetected defects.”

“One must keep in mind that only a failure of one panel will deflate the roof,” the report noted. “The deflation may not cause human injury directly” but may result in panic that would “undoubtedly result in injuries.”

Mark Waggoner, a principal with Texas-based Walter P. Moore, one of the engineering consultants, noted at a Feb. 10 commission meeting that 40 locations on the roof were “overstressed.”

Birdair inspected the roof about eight months before the collapse, and its report indicated the roof’s membrane was in “good to fair” condition. Other components, including the perimeter, vents, cables and related steel components were in “good” condition.

The 22-page report also noted, however, that some patches on the membrane were “lifting up,” probably as a result of sliding snow and ice. The report listed the overall condition of the roof’s liner as “poor,” adding it was “extremely dirty from years of events and has various holes throughout.”

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