Three years in, new turf sought for Vikings stadium

31 December 2018

Less than three years after U.S. Bank Stadium's opening, the facility's landlord and main tenant are ready to swap out the carpet.

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority is seeking bids for new artificial turf. The stadium operator hopes to have the new playing surface in place a few months ahead of next year's Minnesota Vikings season, paid for through an existing account.

The final Vikings home game of the current season is on Sunday, when they host the Bears for a chance to make the playoffs in what would be an opening road game.

The MSFA advertised for proposals this week in the State Register. Potential contractors were invited to tour the stadium beginning next week as they prepare possible bids they'll have just a few more weeks to compile.

A turf company is due to be chosen by March, with installation occurring by May.

In a statement released to MPR News, the MSFA's stadium management company SMG said it and the Vikings "determined we are approaching the time where the turf needs replacing" and that multiple bidders are expected.

"The periodic replacement of the artificial playing surface is part of the overall capital improvement plan for U.S. Bank Stadium and is typical for stadiums over time. This is to ensure the stadium remains safe and in top condition for all athletes," the written statement said. "The frequency of each replacement fluctuates depending on the number of events and different uses of the playing surface."

Lester Bagley, the Vikings executive vice president of public affairs, said the artificial turf typically has a three- to four-year lifespan.

"It's just normal course of business, time to change it out and refresh and put some new turf in there," he said.

The $1.1 billion stadium opened in July 2016 and has already hosted a Super Bowl, major rock concerts, state high school championships and monster truck rallies. The stadium is also the site of the 2019 NCAA Final Four basketball championship in April.

At the time it was installed, Vikings management described the field turf manufactured by a Canadian company as more advanced and durable than the team played on while in the Metrodome.

But two of the Vikings star players, running back Dalvin Cook and former running back Adrian Peterson, both suffered severe knee injuries during home games in the stadium's short life. Some fans blamed the turf.

Bagley dismissed that.

"There's nothing out of the ordinary with the turf and with any injuries," he said. "We play a very aggressive and rough sport and injuries happen whether they are on turf or on grass."

Under the terms of the bid request, the new turf would have to come with a five-year repair and replacement warranty. Independent testing would be done to comply with player safety standards.

"Player/athlete safety is paramount," the bid requirements stress.

The authority specified that the roughly 100,000-square-foot NFL field must come with removable panels for possible baseball alignment. There also must be ability for a 4,000-square foot expansion for soccer use and a shock pad durable enough for heavy-duty stadium events.

The cost of the new turf won't be known until bids are submitted and a contract is awarded. The current turf came at a price of $1.5 million, according to reports at the time.

When the stadium was approved by the Legislature, Vikings ownership and the authority were required to jointly contribute to a capital improvement account to make upgrades to the building as time went on. An MSFA official said the new turf would be paid for through that account.

The capital account had a balance of $3.2 million as of June.

"We spent a lot of time and money on this incredible building and now we need to make sure we keep it up," Bagley said. "The turf is one thing but there are other things that will be coming."