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When heavy snow and ice collapsed the Metrodome roof Sunday -- for the fourth time -- it hit home for the Amherst-based company that built the roof.

Birdair, which installed the stadium roof nearly 30 years ago, sent representatives to Minneapolis to assess the damage.

"Repairs will be discussed with the stadium owner this week," Karen L. Mathews, general counsel for Birdair, said in a statement.

The Metrodome roof, first inflated in 1981, is one of numerous stadium roofs that the company has worked on around the world. The company built roofs over three stadiums in South Africa used in last summer's World Cup soccer tournament, covered the gigantic Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas and built the roof over Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, site of the last Super Bowl.

But the Minnesota stadium has to deal with something most of the others do not -- lots and lots of snow.

A snowstorm battered the Midwest over the weekend, dumping 17 inches of snow on the Twin Cities. Stadium officials tried in vain to keep snow from accumulating on the roof. An interior heating system tried to melt the pileup. Workers went on the roof with hoses to blast hot water but had to stop due to dangerous winds.

Three holes could be seen in the roof after the collapse.

It was the fourth time the Metrodome roof has collapsed since it was installed, but the first time since 1983. All four collapses were snow-related.

The Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants were supposed to play in the Metrodome on Sunday, but the game was moved to Monday because the Giants were delayed by the storm. But early Sunday, the roof collapsed, prompting the National Football League to move the game to Detroit.

Mathews declined to answer questions about the weekend collapse, other than to confirm Birdair was dispatching a team to investigate the damage and would work with the stadium's owner.

The collapse comes amid ongoing debate in the Twin Cities over whether public funds should go toward a new stadium for the Vikings. The team's lease expires at the end of the 2011 season.

The Metrodome roof consists of 10 acres of Teflon-coated fiberglass that is one-sixteenth of an inch thick, according to the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which runs the facility.

In April, Birdair inspected the Metrodome's roof. The commission's staff, after discussion with Birdair's inspector and review of test results, said it believed the roof's outer membrane was in "very good shape," even though it had exceeded its expected service life of 20 years, according to a report of the commission's July meeting.

Birdair recommended the commission start to consider planning for a replacement of the roof fabric, a project it estimated would take five years to complete, the commission reported. The replacement cost was projected at $12 million to $15 million. The commission's staff planned to schedule additional testing in 2014.

The commission's chairman told reporters that Sunday collapse's was due to weather conditions and was not a byproduct of the roof's age.

Birdair's corporate offices are in Amherst, and it performs its design and engineering work locally. Its manufacturing operations are outside the United States. Birdair is a division of Japan-based Taiyo Kogyo Corp.

Birdair's roofs have sustained damage in extreme weather in other cities. In 2008, the roof it made for the Georgia Dome in Atlanta was damaged by 135-mph winds and flying debris. That same year, a hurricane that struck Houston tore pieces off Reliant Stadium's roof.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com