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Will Metrodome be ready for baseball season?

Minnesota Golden GophersEven though the Minnesota Twins vacated the Metrodome before the start of the 2010 season, it’s still a baseball facility, hosting University of Minnesota and MIAC games beginning in February, as well as TwinsFest.

Inspections yesterday revealed an additional torn panel in the roof, as well as more wear and tear than originally assumed. While officials once thought the roof could be easily repaired, it’s now clear more extensive repairs are needed — repairs that could stretch for months.

In January the Metrodome shifts from a football facility to an events and baseball facility, with TwinsFest slated for January 28-30 and the annual Gophers Alumni game slated for Feb. 5. That game can always be rescheduled; the real Gophers opener is March 4, when the annual Dairy Queen Classic begins. Interestingly, Dome officials now say they’re “hopeful” repairs can be finished in time for those two events. Outdoor baseball in Minnesota in March is awfully dicey, so it’s not as though the games can be shifted anywhere.

Long term, the solution is for the Gophers to replace decrepit Siebert Field with a new ballpark — a project already in the works. Paul Molitor has signed on as chairman of the fundraising effort, which has yielded almost $4 million toward the $7.5 million price tag for the first phase of construction. The Dome collapse will surely give this project more urgency, as it’s becoming clear the Metrodome is not a long-term solution for Gopher baseball.

RELATED STORIES: Metrodome roof collapses in dramatic fashion; Pohlads pledge $2 million toward new U of Minnesota ballpark; U of Minnesota announces ballpark plan — kinda

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