Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Skate Away

Front page story in today’s WSJ features the breaking news that the New Football Stadium in Minnesota Will Allow Skaters:

Workers will tear down Minneapolis's Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome early next year, clearing the way to build a sleek, $975 million stadium. The design element in the Minnesota Vikings football team's new home that most concerns Jim Hoffner isn't the sloped clear roof or the 95-foot pivoting doors on one end. It is the hallways.

For more than two decades, thousands of people like Mr. Hoffner have been strapping on in-line roller skates and cruising the corridors of the Metrodome on cold days when the stadium doesn't host a major sporting event. Mr. Hoffner loves the Dome's two continuous concourses—the upper one for faster skaters aged 16 and older, the lower for everyone else—and the polished-concrete floors gloriously free of ruts or twigs.

But Dome skaters face an end date—currently Dec. 27—and have nursed anxiety that the program won't continue in the new stadium. As the final full season of skating wound down last winter, some of the skating program's regulars "just started to cry," Mr. Hoffner recalled. "They said, 'Jim, what are we going to do?' "

Here’s a suggestion: Get a life. C’mon people, inline skating at the Dome is fun, I’ve hit the cooridors a number of times over the years, but is it really worth crying over?

Rollerdome, as the program is called, costs $4.50 per session for kids and $6.50 for adults—plus $5 to rent skates. Dome-skating programs in Pontiac, Mich., and Indianapolis have fizzled as the Dome's has thrived, Mr. Cofrin said, because of the Twin Cities' health-focused populace and the colorful community it has spawned.

Women in their 70s skate alongside children at birthday parties. One frequent skater, "looks like Santa with a very long beard, and he dresses up for the holidays," said Scott Schulte, a 53-year-old regular. Mr. Schulte has completed eight of the Dome's annual 26.2-mile marathons—that is about 70 laps—as well as several 50-mile skates that have become a rite of passage for people turning 50.

Paul Dyrud, a long-track speedskater who is training to try out for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team heading to Sochi, Russia, retreats into the Dome to vary his workouts and when winter temperatures make it counterproductive to use a nearby 400-meter outdoor ice oval. (Yes, it sometimes gets too cold in Minnesota even to ice skate.)

Fact check: mostly true although the number of days it’s actually too cold to skate outside in a typical winter is in the low single digits.

The powers-that-be have listened. In an interview with the Journal, Ms. Kelm-Helgen, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair, confirmed that the new stadium will allow skating. In fact, the activity is even informing its architecture.

"We made sure we designed a new stadium with two concourses that have 360-degree access so that the Rollerdome program could continue," Ms. Kelm-Helgen said.

Still, skaters will have a 2½-year hiatus while the Dome is demolished and the new stadium is built on the same site. Mr. Schulte, the 53-year-old skater, was pragmatic about the layoff: "In the meantime I have to go outside and cross-country ski during the winter, I guess."

Somehow life and winter in Minnesota will go on. It always does.