MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Workers were close Wednesday to clearing the remaining snow and ice from the roof of the Metrodome, which would allow more substantial repair work to begin nearly two weeks after a blizzard caused extensive damage to the home of the Minnesota Vikings.
But Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said it's still not clear how long total repairs would take, including whether it would involve replacing damaged pieces of the roof or replacing it entirely, and how much the repairs would cost.
With the Vikings finished with their home schedule this year, repairs now likely to stretch well into the new year are less urgent.
It still means cancellations or postponements for a number of major events scheduled for the stadium. Among them are a popular New Year celebration by the state's Hmong community, a home and landscape expo, and potentially a monster truck rally and a popular annual Minnesota Twins expo.
Lester said members of the events staff at the Metrodome are already working with Dome users scheduled through the end of January on setting alternate plans and that could extend even further.
The long-running and well-attended "TwinsFest" event is scheduled for the last weekend in January, creating the potential that the Dome's collapse could affect another of Minnesota's pro sports teams. The Twins moved from playing in the Dome to outdoor Target Field at the beginning of the 2010 season.
It took so long to get all the snow and ice off the Dome's roof, Lester said, because of cold weather conditions and safety hazards from the risk of more failures by roof panels in the stadium.
Three panels failed Dec. 12 under the load of about 17 inches of snow that fell in a major winter storm, and a fourth ripped a few days later. On Monday, engineers used a shotgun to blow out a fifth panel that was under stress from a load of ice.
Eight or nine panels may be candidates for replacement, Lester said.
The engineering team working on the repairs hoped to be able to determine whether repairs to individual damaged panels would be enough to make the Dome whole again, or if an entirely new roof would be needed _ likely at a far higher price tag.
Lester said the stadium would definitely be ready for the start of the next NFL season in September.