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The fine art of making, hanging stadium curtains.

Byline: Brian Johnson

The same company that turned on the lights for the Super Bowl in Minneapolis will soon create darkness for another big event coming to U.S. Bank Stadium the 2019 NCAA Final Four men's basketball tournament.<br />Tempe, Arizona-based bluemedia Inc. was selected by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority on Thursday to help design and install a $5.2 million blackout curtain system for the April 6-8 Final Four tournament in downtown Minneapolis.<br />Earlier this year, as part of a "dcor" contract with the National Football League, bluemedia created a Super Bowl-themed light show, a transparent LED screen on the stadium's glass exterior, and a 30-foot-tall projection dome to create buzz for the big game.<br />Designed to keep light from coming into the stadium, the curtains are a requirement for Final Four host venues.<br />Given the stadium's size and unusual design, the project is rife with complexities. The stadium has 200,000 square feet of glass surface and 240,000 square feet of roof material, both of which were specifically designed to let in natural light.<br />"This is absolutely a challenging project for us, for sure," Jared Smith, CEO of bluemedia, said in an email. "The size, the shape, the access, the heights, the timeline, the changing conditions in different parts of the roof not many parameters are easy on this one."<br />Bluemedia was awarded a $3.2 million contract to darken the ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) roof structure. Under a separate $1.4 million contract, Chicago-based Chicago Flyhouse will cover wall surfaces. A $600,000 contingency rounds out the budget.<br />Chicago Flyhouse will partner with four local companies: Minneapolis-based Gopher State Lighting, St. Michael-based Indy Lift Inc., Plymouth-based Freight Dynamics and Allied Electrical & Industrial of St. Louis Park.<br />The MSFA's capital budget will cover the bulk of the cost. The local Final Four organizing committee will kick in $1.8 million as a reimbursement, MSFA communications director Jenn Hathaway said.<br />MSFA officials have kept the blackout curtain project's budget a secret until now. But former MSFA board chair Michele Kelm-Helgen told Finance & Commerce in 2016 that it would cost in the "millions."<br />Bluemedia's retractable curtain, an opaque fabric specially engineered to block out light, is white on top and black on the bottom. It will stretch out a half-inch under the stadium's 250,000-square-foot ETFE roof -- and over obstacles such as sprinklers, cables and steel structural elements. The gap between the roof and the obstacles is 3.5 inches.<br />Aluminum rails, installed to the existing roof system, will enable the fabric to slide like a garage door. A high-speed hoist will deliver the bags containing the fabric materials to the catwalk areas for "quick deployment," said Smith, who added that the hardware should be "nearly invisible" to spectators.<br />Smith said the assembly work, including sewing and packing, will be done in Tempe, Arizona, though some local labor will be used at the project site. About 40 workers will be involved in the project.<br />One challenge was figuring out how to thread the fabric through the jumble of obstacles within the roof system. After many surveys and hours spent in the CAD (computer-aided design) room, the project team found a "clear path" in the roof, Smith said.<br />"We had to really thread the needle with only 3.5 inches to fly the fabric through, but we came up with a way to do it and flew out to install our test run. And it worked," said Smith, whose company has had a hand in events ranging from Major League Baseball All Star games to the World Series of Beach Volleyball.<br />"Flying large fabric is normal for us," Smith added. "Flying 250,000 square feet [of fabric] in the ceiling, horizontally, that will deploy and retract is a first for us."<br />As part of its Super Bowl work, bluemedia used 31,000 lumen laser projectors to illuminate the exterior and interior walls of the Hyatt Regency Hotel with Super Bowl-themed images, such as the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Hyatt was the "Super Bowl LII headquarter hotel downtown," according to bluemedia.<br />For the MSFA, the blackout curtain contract award was more than two years in the making.<br />Only one proposer, Gopher State Lighting, responded to an initial request for proposals released in 2016. The MSFA rejected that proposal because it was deemed a "one-time solution" and the preferred system would be suitable for multiple events, such as concerts or religious gatherings, MSFA Chair Mike Vekich told Finance & Commerce in March.<br />Vekich said on Friday that the Final Four will be the first event to use "this important investment" in the stadium.<br />"Since we have had this item in our capital improvement plan, we have been able to book two additional events that are interested in the darkening solution," Vekich said. "We are happy that we have another amenity to offer clients well into the future."<br />Kate Mortenson, president and CEO of the 2019 Minneapolis Final Four Local Organizing Committee, said in a previous interview with Finance & Commerce that the curtains are part of the NCAA's "lighting protocol" for broadcasters and for players to "have equal playing conditions."<br />The local Final Four organizing committee said in May that the basketball event will bring a $142 million boost to the local economy. The event is expected to bring tens of thousands of fans, players, reporters and more to the metro area.<br />[divider]Related:<br /> Curtains for Vikings stadium top new MSFA exec's to-do list<br /> Final Four is expected to net region $142 million<br />[divider]<br />Like this article? Gain access to all of our great content with a month-to-month subscription.Start your subscription here.<br />

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Publication:Finance and Commerce
Geographic Code:1U4MN
Date:Jun 29, 2018
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