Why Should Birders Be Worried About the New Vikings Stadium?

Credit: AP Photo/HKS

Why Should Birders Be Worried About the New Vikings Stadium?

Minnesota's pro football team just announced that they won't use bird-safe glass on its new window-heavy stadium. Here's what you need to know about the decision.

By Susan E. Matthews
Published: 07/24/2014

The design for the new Minnesota Vikings football stadium is striking—perhaps literally so. The glass-enclosed stadium is likely to be a deadly obstacle for birds because the Vikings will not spend an extra $1.1 million to use bird-safe glass on the billion-dollar project.

Here’s what you need to know about the stadium issue.

What’s the problem with glass?

Birds are unable to distinguish glass from the natural sky, so they crash into the reflective surfaces, often with deadly consequences. In fact, ornithologist Daniel Klem Jr. estimates that bird strikes kill at least a billion birds per year in the United States. A billion birds is about 5 percent of the country’s total bird population, making bird strikes the second-leading manmade threat to bird populations, after habitat loss, says Klem.

The Vikings stadium design, featuring 200,000 square feet of exposed glass, was first unveiled to the public in May 2013. Since then the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) had been working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Audubon Minnesota to determine how to make the structure safer for birds.

“The amount of glass on the building is equivalent to about four football fields,” says Matthew Anderson, executive director of Audubon Minnesota, noting that the stadium is being built within a mile of the Mississippi River, a major flyway for migrating birds including the Ovenbird, Nashville Warbler, and White-throated Sparrow.

How can we stop birds from flying into the glass?

To improve bird safety, the Audubon Society recommended that the stadium use a specific type of glass that is glazed with a pattern that allows the birds to see it. Anderson noted the MFSA plans to purchase the stadium glass from a Minnesota-based company that produces the bird-safe glass as well. 

“This is an opportunity to get it right from the beginning, rather than addressing the problem once we’ve collected a bunch of dead birds,” Anderson said.

So what happened?

The MFSA declined a final meeting with Audubon and on July 17 announced that they would not be using the bird-safe glass, Anderson said. 

“We were able to adopt operational guidelines used by other downtown office and residential buildings, we were unable to change the design and do not have the budget to include the $1.1 million needed for bird safe glass,” the MFSA wrote in an online statement.

Is $1.1 million a large part of the budget?

Of course a million dollars is a lot of money. But the sum is less than one-tenth of one percent of the stadium’s total price tag. The original budget was $975 million, but it increased to more than $1 billion.

Additionally, last month, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported that the team would pay $1.3 million extra for 1,200 more televisions in the stadium, and an additional six escalators, so that people could stay connected to the game while buying concessions. An additional $1.2 million went to doubling the size of the video board and adding more video walls in premium seating.

Did taxpayers pay for part of the stadium? Do they have any say?

Nearly half of budget—$468 million—will be financed through Minnesota’s sale of bonds, Bloomberg reported in January.

The state has building guidelines that offer extensive protections for birds, including mandating that materials meet specified safety standards, high-risk surfaces comprise less than 15 percent of the entire surface area, and buildings follow “Lights Out” management programs. Lights Out programs encourage turning off lights in tall buildings, which can be particularly distracting, and deadly, for migrating birds.

“The B3 Guidelines are required on all projects that receive general obligation bond funding from the State of Minnesota,” according to the state’s website.

These guidelines went into effect on May 1, 2013, after original proposals for the stadium were drafted, so it’s currently unclear whether the structure will have to adhere to them, Anderson says.

MFSA’s statement notes that the design was complete “prior to changes in state guidelines related to bird-safe glass.”

So what’s going to happen?

Construction is already underway, and streaming live on the Vikings’ construction webcam.

The stadium is slated to open in 2016, and will host the Super Bowl in 2018. Despite the decision to forgo the bird-friendly glass, the stadium is still applying for LEED Certification as a green building. 

What can I do?

Urge the Vikings and the MSFA to reverse course immediately and use safer glass. Send an email through Audubon here.

Author Profile

Susan E. Matthews

Susan E. Matthews is the associate web editor for AudubonFollow her on Twitter @susanematthews.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine

Comments

We need a win win solving of

We need a win win solving of the bird issue problem with the new Vikings stadium. Compared to the Billion dollars that will be invested in its construction, the 1.5 million needed to use bird safe glass is a drop in the bucket. This building is huge and it is near the Mississippi Flyway for the migratory birds. When Vikings football fans sing the national anthem land of the free and home of the brave there will be no guilty conscience. The natural birds are free in this country and are symbol of that freedom. In fact Raptors such as eagles and hawks will be crippled and die + migratory ducks and songbirds if the glass is upgraded to birds safe glass. Also there will be no germy dead piles of birds and remnants of bird poop for fans to step over when they enter the grand glass gates of the new stadium. If no birdsafe glass, the flights and migrations of the birds will be interrupted and it will continue on their way to life and their annual natural destinations in their pursuit for happiness. Happy birds and happy football fans... (also do you remember when football was played outside? No glass and no bird issues back then...) . Lets live up to the anthem as we sing Land of the Free and Home of the Brave....

Nice post. Congrats.

Nice post. Congrats.

Please do the right thing and

Please do the right thing and use glass safe for birds. If you fail to see the need to do this, may the dead birds found around and on top of this Viking play field be collected and shown to the crowd.

Please do the right thing and

Please do the right thing and use glass safe for birds. If you fail to see the need to do this, may the dead birds found around and on top of this Viking play field be collected and shown to the crowd.

The extra money must be the

The extra money must be the part the owners are supposed to kick in, huh? You have no problem making those who don't like sports and will never use your stadium pay for the stadium. You don't want to pay for everyone to have health care, but believe everyone should pay for your hobby. You make us all pay for you and your players never to grow up and do real work, when a lot of us are hard working people who will never make in a lifetime what you or even your players make in a year. But upgrading to better glass is too much money? C'mon--it's not coming out of your pockets, (or probably your fans' pockets either, for that matter). So what's the problem?! Cough up the extra cash--I'd rather pay to save birds than pay for a stadium for you idle rich who can more than afford it on your own--but I don't have a choice on that.

Taxpayers are kicking in $468

Taxpayers are kicking in $468 million for you whether they ever set foot in the stadium or not. Do the right thing and spend the extra million to protect our birds.

The decision to not use

The decision to not use bird-safe glass is a completely insensitive & downright inhumane decision.

Please do the right thing and

Please do the right thing and use glass that will protect the migration of many flocks of birds. As others have spoken, why be so insensitive and so willing to go against doing what is right. Perhaps your followers will not be so willing to support you unless you change your goals. Become an advocate for nature and its inhabitants.

Please do the right thing and

Please do the right thing and use glass that will protect the migration of many flocks of birds. As others have spoken, why be so insensitive and so willing to go against doing what is right. Perhaps your followers will not be so willing to support you unless you change your goals. Become an advocate for nature and its inhabitants.

Please do the right thing and

Please do the right thing and use glass that will protect the migration of many flocks of birds. As others have spoken, why be so insensitive and so willing to go against doing what is right. Perhaps your followers will not be so willing to support you unless you change your goals. Become an advocate for nature and its inhabitants.

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