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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's bird enthusiasts are asking Gov. Mark Dayton to apply pressure to the stadium board and the Vikings to change the design of the glass wall that will be the new stadium's signature design feature.

"A beautiful aesthetic to me is watching a 64-yard touchdown run. It's not looking at a building with clear glass that I know is going to kill thousands of birds every year," Sharon Stiteler, an author and blogger, told KARE Tuesday.

Stiteler, who has a loyal following at her birdchick.com website, says the stadium's location -- within a mile of the Mississippi River -- will make it a prime spot for birds to collide with glass.

"The Mississippi River is the 35-W of migration in the spring and fall," she said.

Siteler was among those on hand when the Audubon Society of Minnesota set up shop outside the Governor's office Tuesday morning in St. Paul.

Volunteers set up artistic images of battered birds and posters bearing the names of 73,000 birders who've signed the organization's online petitions asking for bird-safe glass in the stadium. The art was created by a University of Minnesota graduate student who used actual photos of birds that had slammed into glass buildings.

"The governor has referred to this stadium as the people's stadium, and these are the people's signatures asking that the people's stadiums not kill the people's birds," Matthew Anderson of Audubon MN remarked.

Fritted glass, which employees embedded dots or patterns between panes, is designed for energy efficiency because they diffuse sunlight. But, research shows the special glass also reduces bird collisions.

The Audubon's Joanna Eckles said the glass helps birds realize they're approaching a solid surface, but it doesn't necessarily obscure the views of people looking through the window.

"When you're looking out through the pattern your eye tends to look out to the brightness and you tend to be able to see right through it, much like looking through a screen," Eckles said, while showing samples of the glass.

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution last week asking the stadium board and the Vikings to consider bird safe glass.

Authority response

In early August, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority ordered glass without fritting, after learning the Minnesota supplier needed five months lead time to fabricate the segments.

"We're moving ahead with this design, and it's going to be a beautiful building," the Authority's chair, Michele Kelm-Helgen told KARE.

Kelm-Helgen, who was appointed to the post by Dayton and formerly served on his staff, said the fritted glass would take away from the visual impact architects are seeking.

"You can see the fritting dots, and it really would impact the views that we would have."

She pointed out the idea of the "window to the skyline" is part of an effort to make the new stadium more integrated into its surroundings, compared to windowless, enclosed Metrodome that served as the Vikings' home for the past three decades.

She added that the stadium's ETFE plastic ceiling panels will have some fritting, as a manner of diffusing incoming sunlight. But the vertical glass wall will completely transparent.

Lighting accord

Stadium planners have agreed to incorporate the Audubon Society's lighting guidelines at night.

"They told us certain colors of lights are more or less attractive to birds, so we're trying to follow that," Kelm-Helgen explained.

"They want the light on the exterior to be facing down rather than facing up, and we're doing that too."

She said those lighting techniques are used by owners of other large glass buildings in downtown are a means to save birds via operations rather using special glass.

"We feel very strongly that it's important to protect the birds, operationally, through managing the lights-out program at night," Kelm-Helgen explained.

The Audubon Society's Andeson said his group is very grateful that the stadium authority has taken the bird safe lighting design elements to heart, and hopes planners will have a change of heart when it comes to the glass fritting idea.

Rolf Thompson, director of the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, said he hopes the stadium designers have a clear understanding of how popular birding is in Minnesota.

"Vikings fans are also bird fans, and certainly environmental stewardship is an incredibly important value to all Minnesotans," Thompson said.

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