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Birdair mobilizes for Metrodome repair
Collapsed roof keeps events out for months

Amherst-based Birdair is working on plans to repair the Metrodome's storm-damaged roof, as the Minneapolis stadium remains off-limits to events nearly a month after its dome collapsed.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which operates the Metrodome, expects to meet later this month with representatives of Birdair, which built and installed the roof, and Geiger, which designed it, said Pat Milan, a commission spokesman. Their submissions will be reviewed by an independent engineering firm.

Stadium officials already have determined that at least nine of the Metrodome's 106 roof panels need to be replaced, Milan said. The review under way will determine the extent of the damage, provide possible solutions and identify how quickly the stadium can safely be returned to use.

Organizers of events scheduled for the Metrodome through the end of March have been told to find other venues. "I think we're thinking that's the least amount of time it could take" to return the Metrodome to use, Milan said.

The Metrodome's fabric roof collapsed Dec. 12 due to heavy snow and ice amid a massive storm that struck the Midwest. The Minnesota Vikings' last two home games had to move to other venues. But the scheduling disruptions did not end there.

Some events that were planned for the Metrodome this month had to be canceled. And the stadium typically hosts high school and college baseball games early in the year. "People are getting a taste of how many other things go on in the dome other than football," Milan said.

Birdair manufactured the roof and installed it in 1981. Its corporate offices are in Amherst, but its manufacturing operations are outside the United States. A Birdair representative did not return messages seeking comment on the repair efforts.

Milan recalled that Birdair officials traveled to Minneapolis promptly after the dome collapsed. "The Birdair guys got here as quickly as they could under difficult weather circumstances," he said.

The collapse has fueled debate in the Twin Cities over whether to build a new stadium for the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings or to replace the Metrodome's roof.

The Minnesota Twins baseball team left the dome last season when it opened Target Field, an outdoor facility.

"We're in the wait-and-see mode," Milan said. For now, he said, the focus is on making the stadium usable again.