Today marks the one-year anniversary of an event many people believed was unthinkable – even in a year full of various distractions – as the 30-year-old Metrodome collapsed under the weight of a mid-December snowstorm.
Some Vikings players reflected on their memories of that moment, as the roof collapse became the latest in a seemingly never-ending string of problems, issues and distractions that team faced.
It was clear the Saturday night before the collapse that there was something wrong and that the storm hitting the Twin Cities was going to cause problems. The Vikings’ opponent, the New York Giants, was stranded in Kansas City after having their team flight diverted as the conditions at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport quickly deteriorated. Word had come out that there were some leaks in the roof from which small amounts of snow were falling through, but, at the time, it was more of matter of how long would the game be delayed, not that literally tons of snow would come crashing down on the field.
“The night before, we sat in a meeting and Coach (Leslie) Frazier said there are some leaks in the roof and there was a chance the game could be delayed, but we were told not to worry because the roof was structurally sound,” Ryan Longwell said. “Those were the last parting words before we went to bed. When I got up and turned on the TV, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s not like it happened at midnight. It happened at 5 in the morning. People start showing up for the game about 7 a.m. and working down on the field. Our first bus gets there at 8. We weren’t that far off from potentially being right out where the roof collapsed. Then you started thinking about worst-case scenarios. That’s when it started getting scary.”
Lorenzo Booker had been on the Vikings less than a week (he was signed Dec. 7) and said he was wondering what was going on with this team. He was late to the circus, but the main event was yet to come.
“We were told that the game was going to be pushed back because there was a bunch snow on the roof,” Booker said. “It hadn’t collapsed yet, but there was enough snow on the roof that they figured there was the possibility of hazard. They said they game would probably be pushed back to Sunday night or Monday, but it was still supposed to played at the Metrodome. It was a crazy few hours that next morning. We were told the roof had collapsed and that the Giants were stranded in Kansas City, so the game couldn’t be played that day. Everything got in motion over the next six or seven hours and that was when they came up with the idea of playing it in Detroit.”
How the players found out about the disaster differed. Some simply turned on the television in their hotel rooms and found out. Others were alerted via social media and messaging. No matter how they were informed, they all shared the jaw-dropping image of seeing their home field subjected to an avalanche of snow.
“I woke up in the hotel and checked my phone and heard about it on Twitter,” Chris Kluwe said. “I had considered that it could happen because it is an inflatable roof, but I always figured they would have precautions to prevent that from happening.”
Phil Loadholt said it was a pretty typical game-day morning. He got up and checked his phone only to find a text message from a teammate down the hall.
“I woke up and had a text message from Jimmy Kennedy, he was always kind of the breaking-news guy on the team, telling me to turn on the TV,” Loadholt said. “I was in shock when I saw it. My first thought was that it could have really hurt somebody and, if it had happened (during a game), all we could have done was hope we were on the other side of the field.”
Linebacker Erin Henderson said he had a hard time comprehending what he was seeing at first, but said that quickly turned to asking himself how many more trials and tribulations the 2010 Vikings had to go through before the season would mercifully come to an end.
“My mind was blown,” Henderson said. “It was kind of like, ‘Now what?’ I guess we needed more stuff to deal with, as if we didn’t have enough already over the previous three months. You need to have a routine that you do week-in, week-out. We had seen a lot of distractions, but this one was off the page. We’re creatures of habit, so when that happened, we were all pretty lost as to what to do.”
For some, like linebacker Kenny Onatolu, the video of the collapse looked too staged, like something out of a Hollywood big-budget disaster flick. After flipping channels and seeing the video being reported everywhere from local stations to FOX, which had a pregame camera rolling, he realized the collapse of the roof was real, but it was still hard to believe.
“I just thought it was crazy,” Onatolu said. “When I first saw it, I thought it was a trick like you see in the movies. Once I figured out this is for real, I was imagining what would have happened had we been in there when it happened. It would have been chaos. I just sat on my bed in the hotel watching it over and over, just shaking my head.”
Charlie Johnson, who was with Indianapolis at the time, had his own game to prepare for and, while he heard whispers about something happening in Minnesota, it wasn’t until the next day that he saw the video, which was just as stunning for an outsider as it was for members of the 2010 Vikings.
“I didn’t find out about it until the next day after practice,” Johnson said. “I knew the stadium was old, but I thought the technology or architecture would be better because it’s in Minnesota and you expect a lot of snow here. You would have thought it would have been a little stronger. When I saw the video on SportsCenter, I couldn’t believe it.”
Johnson wasn’t the only Viking who spent an inordinate amount of time looking up at the roof when the Metrodome was finally reopened in August. He said he still had a hard time believing a structure so massive could collapse, but it was real. It was possible. It did happen. Considering how much worse it could have been, the anniversary of the roof collapse won’t be remembered like the bridge collapse on I-35 that took lives and injured many more.
“At the end of the day, nobody died and nobody got hurt, so that’s a blessing,” Longwell said. “You can’t help but wonder what could have happened, but I think everybody who was on that team was just thankful that it happened during the night and not when there were people down on that field doing their jobs that could have been hurt or even killed.”
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.