When it opens this summer, US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis will feature the only ETFE (ethylene-tetra-fluoro-ethylene) roof on a sports facility in the United States. This resilient and transparent material, long used in Europe, will now provide Minnesota Vikings football fans with a comfortable experience inside the stadium and a clear view outside, even if the outdoor temperature is far below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
In contrast to the preponderance of opaque domed stadiums in this country, some 60% of the Vikings’ facility has been covered with ETFE, not only letting in daylight, but allowing fans to gaze skyward and enjoy the view. Additionally, this dramatic stadium features five of the world’s largest operable glass doors, which can be opened if the weather outside is pleasant. These gargantuan doors measure 55 feet in width, angling from 75 feet to 95 feet in height, and weigh approximately 57,000 pounds each. Of note, the large door system also contains five smaller doors which can be used when the large doors are closed due to inclement weather.
Journalists were invited to sample
As the stadium nears completion, a diverse group of journalists — specializing in everything from architecture to sports — had the opportunity to visit this 1.75 million sq. ft. structure, including 248,000 sq. ft. of ETFE roof, and listen to very articulate presentations from many on the design and development team, including leadership from the Minnesota Vikings. I found no shortage of good stories to report, most of which will follow later this month. Here I report on the old stadium, the new stadium, and this remarkable material, ETFE.
In other stories, I will report about:
- Sustainability practices in design and construction
- Strategy behind this projected $1.1 billion inner-city facility
- Economic impact & surrounding development
- This development as a showcase for others to follow
The old stadium model
Minneapolis, known for its very cold winter weather, previously featured the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, built downtown in 1982. It was the ninth oldest stadium in the NFL, featuring a fiberglass fabric roof, self-supported by air pressure. It was the third major sports facility to have this feature (the first two being the Pontiac Silverdome and the Carrier Dome).
Preparation for the demolition of the Metrodome began the day after the final home game for the Minnesota Vikings on December 29, 2013. Demolition began January 18, 2014.
For those wanting a glimpse, here is how the roof to the Metrodome came down.
The new stadium model
Owned by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the multi-purpose US Bank Stadium is scheduled to host Super Bowl LII in 2018 and the NCAA Final Four in 2019. Some leap from the starting line!
Designed by Dallas-based HKS Architects, the US Bank Stadium features the largest transparent ETFE roof in North America, spanning 240,000 square feet. This will be the only stadium in the nation with a clear ETFE roof.
ETFE is a co-polymer resin which is extruded into a thin film. The light-weight material is transparent but can be treated to be translucent. It is durable and resistant to corrosion. In an architectural application ETFE is typically used in a multi-layer pneumatic system.
Longevity of ETFE
This material does not degrade with exposure to UV light, atmospheric pollution, harsh chemicals, or extreme temperatures. It has withstood extensive testing within extreme environments and is expected to have a 30 to 50-year life expectancy, requiring minimal maintenance. Presently, the true life-cycle of ETFE is not known, as the oldest applications are just hitting the 30-year mark with little to no replacement of system components.
ETFE Weight & Strength
Despite its light weight (1/100 the weight of glass) ETFE is reported to handle snow/wind loads well. In sheet form, it can stretch three times its length without losing elasticity. Support rods are used with the stadium roof panels.
The surface of the foil is non-stick and non-porous, which allows the natural action of rain to clean the surface. Deposits of dirt, dust and debris remain unattached and are washed away in the rain, meaning ETFE effectively self-cleans with virtually no need to clean externally.
As Amy Wilson has written on Architen, “Originally invented by DuPont as an insulation material for the aeronautics industry, ETFE was not initially considered as a main-stream building material, its principle use being as an upgrade for the polythene sheet commonly used for green house polytunnels.”
“The advantages of its extraordinary tear resistance, long life and transparency to ultra-violet light off-set the higher initial costs and 20 years later it is still working well. It wasn’t until the early 1980s, when German mechanical engineering student, Stefan Lehnert, investigated it in his quest for new and exciting sail materials, that its use was reconsidered.”
Indeed! Just take a look at this showcase taking place near the Mississippi River.