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Minnesota Vikings' new stadium to have retractable roof?

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- One day after winning their seven-year fight for a new stadium, Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf started to lay out their vision for the $975 million project they hope will serve as a recruiting tool for free agents for decades.

Hoping the stadium will be complete by 2016 and able to host the Super Bowl in 2017, the owners appear to be leaning toward footing the bill for a retractable roof, which could help them bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Minnesota. They also see a stadium and plaza with cutting-edge technology and lots of open spaces for fans to congregate.

"We're going to try to get the maximum number of features within the budgets that we can make this a facility that is going to be exciting to the fans," Mark Wilf said Friday. "We know it's a competitive landscape to attract our fans to the facility and we're going to want to make it something special. To the extent that (a retractable roof) can get there, we're going to try to do it."

The Vikings and the NFL are contributing $477 million toward the project, with $348 million coming from the state and $150 million from Minneapolis. If the Wilfs want a retractable roof, they will have to fork over even more money. State lawmakers put a provision in the bill that allows for a retractable roof, but the Vikings would have to pay the extra cost.

"If it's snowing very, very hard, we'll open up the roof," Zygi Wilf quipped.

When asked if that meant a roof was definitely in the plans, Wilf backed off, saying he wasn't sure yet. The plans are in their infant stages, with just a few artist renderings shown to the public that could change dramatically over the next eight to 12 months of the design phase. The most recent depiction shows a circular stadium with a huge plaza and green space.

It will be the first time in the Vikings' 51-year franchise history that they will have a place of their own. They shared Metropolitan Stadium with the Twins for 21 seasons, then shared the Metrodome with the Twins and University of Minnesota football team for most of the past three decades.

"We want to get people out of their homes and come to the stadium and enjoy that," Zygi Wilf said. "The features that we have there will evolve. As much as we've seen other stadiums, this will be our own. This will be a Minnesota Vikings stadium on its own. It will have its own footprint and own features that will be different from others."

Sightlines in the stadium and proximity to the field will be a priority. One of the Metrodome's endearing qualities is the noise level that the fans generate, ear-splitting volume that gives the Vikings one of the better home-field advantages in the league.

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"It's very important that fans feel they're not watching it from a blimp, that they're watching it from close to the field," Zygi Wilf said. "That's very, very important. We underestimate that when we go to other stadiums, the fan experience, sit in those seats and see how it would be, and a lot of stadiums don't have the closeness as we're trying to get here."

Mark Wilf said they hope to only need to play one season at the university's TCF Bank Stadium, "but it very well may be two."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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