published in sb 2/2017
Located in Minneapolis and home to the Minnesota Vikings NFL team, U.S. Bank Stadium is a multi-purpose venue known as “The People’s Stadium”. HKS designed the building to reflect the culture, climate and context of its city, drawing inspiration from ice formations on nearby St. Anthony’s Falls as well as Scandinavian design such as Viking longboats. U.S. Bank Stadium includes 66,200 seats and seven club spaces and will host prominent sporting events including the Super Bowl in 2018, the 2019 NCAA Final Four, and the ESPN X Games in 2017 and 2018.
Key design influences
Minnesota is known for its lakes and rivers that freeze during the winter, creating jagged ice formations that change form as they expand and contract. The geometry of these ice formations was a key design influence for U.S. Bank Stadium. Scandinavian design also inspired the HKS design team. Craft, value and a celebration of simplicity drove the aesthetic, which draws from Scandinavian architecture and design examples such as Viking longboats and longhouses.
HKS’ design goal for the U.S. Bank Stadium was to connect the stadium to its city and skyline in a literal and symbolic way. A signature design feature of the stadium is the Legacy Gate, comprised of five glass pivot doors ranging from 23 to 29 meters tall. These doors open out from the stadium toward a nearly three-acre plaza informally known as “The Commons”.
Standing on the concourse, patrons can look northwest through the Legacy Gate to the skyline, or turn southeast to see straight into the stadium bowl and down onto the field. Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, the stadium is connected to the city’s intricate network of pedestrian skyways, and also to its metro transit system. The design added 3,435 m² of new green space to downtown Minneapolis. That is roughly equivalent to 20 community playgrounds.
In addition to NFL games, U.S. Bank Stadium is now a year-round venue that hosts concerts, high school and college athletic events, conventions, festivals and more. The six clubs in the stadium are available on non-game days for private events including corporate meetings, galas, proms and weddings.
The fan experience
The design team conducted anthropological research on potential users of the stadium in order to tailor a place for people to gather and celebrate that would enhance the landscape and culture of the region.
The Vikings initially wanted an open-air stadium, but the cost of building an operable roof was prohibitively high. Designers proposed a transparent, lightweight, ETFE roof that would protect the interior from snow, yet maintain great sight lines and illuminate the interior with natural light. This was the first major U.S. application of an ETFE roof, a luminous material that transforms the interior spaces.
Vikings fans are as close to the action as in any NFL stadium, with seats just 12.5 meters from the sideline. Seven levels in the stadium, including two general admission concourses with 360-degree circulation and various views into the bowl, are connected via escalators, elevators, stairs and a continuous ramp.
The stadium has 131 suites of seven unique types, including 23 Turf Suites located directly on the field. One of the stadium’s clubs, Mystic Lake’s Club Purple, offers two unique features targeting a millennial audience. The first is an exterior rooftop area with sweeping views of the Minneapolis skyline. The second is a seating area in the stadium bowl that has the look and feel of a rooftop bar, replete with couches and table service.
Two of the largest and highest-quality HD video boards in the NFL are located 3.65 m above the concourse, to enable fans to feel connected to technology. People walk under and around the video boards; they are a part of the design of the overall experience.
To minimize building cost and reduce structural loads on the roof, HKS realized that their first objective in designing the form of the building was to get snow off the roof of the stadium as quickly and simply as possible. Analyzing traditional Nordic architecture, designers determined that a sloped roof would offer both cultural and structural precedent to the challenge of building in Minneapolis’ snowy climate.
Minneapolis’ average winter temperature is five degrees Celsius, and heating costs typically comprise a high percentage of the region’s energy usage. Managing heating costs was a design priority.
The angular, sloped form of the building allows air to circulate through stadium in both winter and summer months in a way that is fundamentally new to this building type but closely connected to the way buildings were traditionally built in northern climates. In addition to its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, the sloped roof also forms a lofted interior “heat reservoir” storing solar heat that acts as a natural snow melt system. The building contains a system of vertical air risers that – in winter – draw warm air from the heat reservoir above and distribute it throughout the stadium and seating bowl below.
The ETFE roof comprises the entire southern facet of the roof line. Light coming through the ETFE roof substantially reduces the need for daytime artificial lighting, and offers the psychological benefits of natural daylight. LED lighting – the first of its kind in a new NFL stadium – can adjust color temperatures and turn off and on quickly to allow for unique pre-game and halftime entertainment and an enhanced viewing experience.
The stadium has only 200 parking spaces, which are allocated to players. The public accesses the stadium from public transportation or existing city parking, which connects to the stadium via skyways and sidewalks. The city has 32,000 parking spaces within a 20-minute walk to the stadium.