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Seated in history

Four hundred seats salvaged from the Metrodome are now affixed to the concrete slabs that fans once sat on at Royals Stadium. (Staff photo by Mike Longaecker)

At first blush, it’s an uncanny sight for Minnesota sports fans.

The blue handrails. The gray cement foundation. And, most definitely, those seats.

Indeed, Woodbury High School baseball fans might be in for a bit of déjà vu the next time they visit Royals Stadium.

The stadium is now fully outfitted with 400 seats salvaged from the Metrodome. After serving the Twins, Vikings and Gophers for more than 30 years, the Minneapolis stadium was demolished earlier this year to make way for a new Vikings stadium.

But before construction equipment began tearing the dome apart, a firm was hired to sell off the Metrodome’s venerable blue, plastic seats.

When they began distributing the seats, Kevin McDermott was first in line. The Woodbury baseball coach learned far in advance that the seats would become available to the public, so he got in touch immediately with the firm that was selling them.

“I’m thinking, ‘Geez, these things are royal blue – you can’t fit it any better,’” McDermott said.

Fans basking in the afternoon sun at the following May 20 Royals game seemed to think the seats were a good fit, too.

Mike Kohlbeck, whose son plays for the Royals, was used to dragging lawn chairs out to the stadium.

“We got decent seats for the fans, but we also got a piece of the Metrodome,” he said.

Inspired seating

History is central to the sport of baseball, an element that isn’t lost on McDermott.

He admired how a ballpark in Shakopee repurposed old Met Stadium seats and how a park in Eagan incorporated seats from Milwaukee’s former County Stadium.

He figured, why not try to do something similar in Woodbury with Metrodome nostalgia?

“It’s a piece of Minnesota history,” McDermott said. “It’s a real cool thing for our community, our school, our kids.”

Dan Killen was happy to find himself parked in a former dome seat while watching his grandson Jake Dickmeyer pitch for the Royals.

Killen wondered aloud of it was either one of the seats he was in when he watched the Twins win the World Series in 1987 and 1991.

“To preserve part of the Metrodome is just a great idea,” he said.

That appreciation spans the generation gap, too.

Killen’s granddaughter Amanda Dickmeyer, a Woodbury Middle School eighth grader, was all smiles in her new seat.

“Having this part of the stadium is just amazing,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

No small task

After months spent establishing how to retrofit the stadium with the seats, the actual installation came together in a jiffy. McDermott worked with Stillwater-based Custom Craft Builders, and enlisted the help of parents and ballplayers.

What he expected to take upward of a week was finished in two days.

“It came together really well,” McDermott said.

Funding for the project – seats were purchased at $40 apiece – came courtesy of the Royal Booster Club and the team’s Home Run Booster Club.

McDermott said the dome seats are just the latest in a continuing effort to add something to the stadium each year. Successive years have brought new turf (2013), a press box (2012), a windscreen (2011) and a 10-inning scoreboard (2010).

“We just keep trying to add,” McDermott said.

The financial pathway to whatever comes next could be paved by a surplus of seats. Scads of leftover seats remain and McDermott is already envisioning what could come of them.

He said there’s a good possibility the leftover seats will be raffled off as part of a fundraiser.

“We’ll see,” McDermott said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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