Activists call new Viking stadium a 'bird deathtrap'

MINNEAPOLIS - While fans have hailed the design of the new Vikings stadium as groundbreaking, a state group that advocates for the well-being of birds is calling the glass enclosed structure a 'bird deathtrap'.

Audubon Minnesota Executive Director Matthew Anderson says despite state guidelines set to protect birds from deadly window collisions, the Minnesota Vikings and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) last week rejected calls to use safer types of glass that could prevent collisions as birds migrate along the Mississippi Corridor.

"We're talking about a billion dollar stadium here, and the cost to save perhaps thousands of migratory birds – and make the Vikings a global leader in green stadium design – is about one-tenth of one percent of that," said Anderson. "Hundreds of millions of dollars of public money is going to build this stadium, and we know the people of Minnesota do not want their money killing birds. The Vikings recently approved spending millions and millions of additional dollars to make sure the stadium is 'iconic' – surely they also want to make sure it's not a death trap."

Anderson insists that Audubon first met with MSFA and the Vikings in May 2013 after the stadium design was unveiled to the public, and were backed by the Minnesota DNR and the Minneapolis City Council in urging the construction of a bird-safe structure through glazing techniques and special site lighting. Anderson says Audubon staff communicated regularly with stadium developers until April 2014, when they were told that another meeting would be scheduled before a July 15 decision on the type of glass to be used.

Audubon Minnesota says that meeting was canceled, and staff were told on July 17 that there would be no change in the stadium glass choice to protect birds.

"We are grateful that the MSFA will be incorporating some of our recommendations regarding lighting design and operations, but lighting is just one part of the problem" said Joanna Eckles, bird-friendly communities manager for Audubon Minnesota. "The huge expanses of glass, especially facing a new park, are a real cause for concern. Our request was that they meet either the state requirement or the nationally recognized LEED standard for bird safety. In the end, they did neither."

Statement from The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority:

The new stadium design and budget were completed prior to conversations with the Audubon Society. The design was also completed prior to changes in state guidelines related to bird-safe glass.

"One of the design goals was to create a building that was more connected and integrated with the community than the Metrodome had been," said Michele Kelm-Helgen. "The ability to see in and out of the stadium was what led us to the design that included the ETFE roof and operable doors on the downtown facing wall."

We have met several times with the Audubon Society and worked with Mortenson and HKS to look at all options for design and operational solutions to minimize bird collisions.

We have agreed to the Audubon Society's operational approaches, including the "Lights Out" guidelines.

We have also taken into consideration the lighting design for the stadium, and where we are able, we will follow the Audubon's suggestions.

We were able to adopt operational guidelines used by other downtown office and residential buildings, we were unable to change the design and do not have the budget to include the $1.1 million needed for bird safe glass.

We will continue to work with the Audubon Society on operational enhancements that will help make the facility bird friendly.

Statement from the Vikings:

We have met multiple times with representatives from the Audubon Society and, together with the MSFA and HKS, have been working collaboratively to address concerns regarding bird safety.

The Vikings and the MSFA have agreed to implement lighting operational procedures, when possible, to mitigate bird collisions during peak migratory periods. We are also discussing the Audubon's various recommendations regarding the lighting design for the stadium.

Stadium construction costs continue to rise, and unfortunately the budget does not include the additional cost required by the Audubon Society's recommended glass. We will continue to partner with the MSFA to enhance bird safety through the lighting design and operational guidelines.


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