More than 77,000 signatures urging the Vikings to use bird-friendly glass on their new stadium landed in Gov. Mark Dayton's office Tuesday morning, as bird advocates squawk their objections over the team's extra spending elsewhere.
Advocates brought a printout of the petition signatures – collected from the Audubon site, plus a separate petition website – to the governor's office in St. Paul at 9:30 a.m., and asked Dayton to intervene because the team has so far refused to change the glass design.
Among those at the gathering were Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon, Audubon Minnesota Executive Director Matthew Anderson, National Eagle Center Director Rolf Thompson, artist Miranda Brandon, and author Sharon “Birdchick” Stiteler.
KARE 11 reports Dayton was not present when the signatures were presented, but notes a representative came out to accept the large panel of names.
Added spending goes to amenities, not birds
The Audubon Society has called the Vikings' current stadium design – which includes 200,000 square feet of clear glass – a "death trap" for area birds.
Advocates point out that Minneapolis is in the heart of North America’s busiest flyway. They fear birds will easily fly into the glassy stadium's transparent surfaces, killing them. The Audubon Society supports the use of fritted glass, which has a pattern – stripes, dots, or perhaps a logo – incorporated into the glass to keep it from being invisible to birds. The Minneapolis City Council sided with the advocates, adopting a resolution urging the Vikings to adopt a bird-friendly glass.
But when the issue was publicized, the Vikings and Minnesota Sports Facility Authority declined to alter their plans for the glass.
The authority initially cited cost as a reason for not altering the surface, saying in a July press release they "do not have the budget to include the $1.1 million needed for bird safe glass." The Vikings confirmed around the same time they wouldn't be upgrading the glass because they couldn't afford it, the Star Tribune reported.
An MSFA spokesperson recently told the Star Tribune the glass has already been ordered.
Last week however, the Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, announced it committed an additional $46.1 million in spending to the stadium, above and beyond what was initially promised. The extra cash was ponied up to ensure promised fan amenities would be included, but made no mention of bird-safe glass.
"Forty-six million dollars but nothing for the birds? This announcement is a slap in the face," said Matthew Anderson, Audubon Minnesota's executive director, in a statement. "A month ago, the Vikings and the MSFA said they didn't have a million extra dollars in a billion-dollar budget. Today, they said that have an extra $46 million. ... They've got the money apparently. They just refuse to do what's right and commonsense."
On Twitter, Vikings' Executive Director of Communications Jeff Anderson responded to a fan question about bird safety, and whether the new money would be put toward it.
Jim Williams, who writes the Star Tribune's Wingnut blog, posted a photos of regular versus fritted glass, noting that the visibility is significantly impacted in the example he found.
Just months into the process, the new stadium itself is starting to take shape. The Vikings posted recent photos and a video on their construction website Tuesday.
In addition, Finance & Commerce reports the MSFA and Metro Transit are teaming up to build an $8.7 million bridge for pedestrians to get from the Downtown East light-rail station into the stadium.
A full breakdown of the plan, meant to ease congestion while increasing safety, can be seen in a .pdf here.