Now that our shiny new football arena is almost complete, hating on it has instantly become a favorite community sport. “It looks like the Death Star,” is a common observation—or a mountainous lump of coal, laser printer, sixth-grade science project, alien spacecraft. Take your pick. Reason magazine—known for its level-headed analyses of world affairs—has observed that, as Star Wars similes go, U.S. Bank Stadium looks less like the Death Star and more like a Jawa Sandcrawler, which is basically a rolling factory for recycling junk.
The metaphor is apt, and deliberate.
The hating started before the stadium was even built, of course. Depending on who is spitting the venom, it was always going to be a billion-dollar boondoggle, a giant wall of death for migrating birds, or an architectural monstrosity of historic proportions. Also, artist renderings of the building suggested a bright, shiny gem of architectural splendor. Instead, it turns out to be a black hulk of neo-modern anarchy. Bleccchh.
There are lots of reasons to hate the Vikings’ new home, to be sure—among them the fact that it is not going to fire up its engines and fly away. For the next thirty years at least, that thing is going to be the most visible and distinctive feature of the Minneapolis skyline.
Which is also why we need to start learning to love it.
Granted, it will not be easy. For starters, one of the biggest mistakes the architects made was to make the new stadium too artsy by half. Rather than build a merely functional building, like the Metrodome, the folks at HKS Architects tried to build something that would also serve as a giant piece of public sculpture. Many Minnesotans hate public sculpture. They hated it when then-mayor R.T. Rybak put a few “artist-designed” drinking fountains around town. They hated it when starchitect Jean Nouvel built the Guthrie Theater. They hated it when it was even suggested that internationally-renown architect Santiago Calatrava design the new I-35 bridge. So it was inevitable that they would hate it in a football stadium.
Personally, I give the architects kudos for trying. The design is supposed to evoke all sorts of things Minnesotan and icy: the prow of a Viking ship, shards of ice on Lake Superior, the reflecting surface of a lake, the brittle clarity of a winter sky, the ascension of something mighty and inevitable.
Unfortunately, that’s way too much suggestive symbolism for many Minnesotans to digest. If it were part of the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden, maybe (the angle of our giant spoon is supposed to suggest the prow of a Viking ship as well, BTW), but smack dab by the side of the freeway, where everyone can see it? That’s a little too much artsy-fartsy design for some folks to handle. It’s like the building is showing off. The Metrodome never did that; it just sat there like a giant marshmallow, humble and dull. The new stadium does not. It’s a lot like Vikings owner Zygi Wolf himself—it demands that you notice it, dares you to like it, and doesn’t really care if you don’t. It’s not a nice building, it’s an aggressive, in-your-face monument to the marriage of politics and big business.
But still, we all have to look at it. And even if you despise the stadium now, any psychologist will tell you that harboring hatred and animosity for years on end is not a healthy mindset. Some sort of civic attitude adjustment is in order, a collective purge of disgust, so that our days aren’t darkened by the Death Star’s menacing presence at the gates of the city.
Give it time. If you can’t bring yourself to embrace the new stadium, chances are you’ll learn to ignore it. The human mind is very good at blocking out things it finds painful. In cases of Stockholm Syndrome, prisoners even come to love their captors, if only as a survival mechanism. There is nothing to do now but be patient and try to find the good in the stadium, and hope that it doesn’t crush our collective spirit in the meantime.
After all, in only a couple of years there will be a whole new stadium to scrutinize (St. Paul’s new major-league soccer venue), and if by some miracle the Vikings start winning, all may be forgiven.