When it comes to reducing collisions with the glass of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, environmental advocates told stadium officials Friday.
There’s already a proven solution — “fritted” or patterned glass — which would cost only about $1 million and is being used successfully at places such as the Javits Center in New York City, they say. That’s better than waiting for a potential fix from 3M that might never come to fruition.
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is overseeing construction of the new $1 billion facility, said at a Friday morning meeting that she was open to a fuller discussion of the issue next month but that “the glass decision on the building has been made.”
The transparent design was approved after vetting by several stakeholder groups and is part of what will make the stadium “an iconic building that people are going to want to be part of,” Kelm-Helgen said. Fritted glass would clash with that look, officials have said.
If there is a solution from 3M that would be transparent to humans but detectable by birds and is possibly more energy efficient to boot, “that would be a very win-win situation for all of us, and so that’s why we’re working on that and pursuing that,” Kelm-Helgen said.
She confirmed earlier this month that the authority was in talks with 3M, the Vikings and the Audubon Society about testing possible “bird-safe window film solutions.”
The status of any such product was unclear Friday.
Kelm-Helgen said that 3M has said it has some existing products it wants to test for bird-deterrent qualities, as well as some new products under development that might work. She stressed that it’s early in the process and details aren’t finalized.
“There is no product yet,” said 3M spokeswoman Fanna Haile-Selassie. Company scientists believe they may be able to find a solution, hopefully by this spring, Haile-Selassie said.
All of which makes some bird advocates suspect the 3M possibility is a red herring being floated by the authority to distract from the fritted glass solution.
“It’s absurd, absolutely absurd, that you’re now pointing to a possible future solution and taking refuge in that as some kind of action that you’re taking to deal with this massacre of birds that’s going to occur unless you change course and change the glass,” Constance Pepin of Minneapolis told authority members.
Brad Bourn, a member of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, said a $1 million fix on a billion-dollar project would be “the equivalent on the park board of painting a swing-set blue instead of green in the final design.”
But Kelm-Helgen said the $1 million is only the cost for the fritted glass. Changing direction at this point also would mean wasting the glass already fabricated for the project, the value of which she said she couldn’t estimate. Plus it would necessitate a redesign and cause a delay, the duration of which she said she was not sure of.
And authority board member John Griffith assured bird advocates they were being heard. “I think that they’ve shown that there’s a large constituency that cares very much about this issue,” he said.
Griffith said he’s personally affected when he sees birds that have died after colliding with buildings. “Every once in a while, whether it’s downtown Minneapolis or wherever, you see one of those little fellows on the sidewalk. It bums me out, there’s no question about that.”
Testing of a bird-safe solution this spring would begin on other existing buildings, Kelm-Helgen said, with the stadium being added to the test after the building is finished in 2016.
The new stadium will have about 190,000 square feet of glass. It sits in downtown Minneapolis in what’s called the “Mississippi flyway” for migrating birds.
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