Vikings could be displaced to TCF for 2 years

The Vikings' new stadium was approved last year, but important decisions will be made in the coming months, including the viability of a retractable feature, the design of the stadium and just how long the Vikings will be playing at TCF Bank Stadium. Lester Bagley said many issues remain unresolved until a construction manager is selected, which was delayed again.

The new Vikings stadium is still months away from breaking ground, but that doesn't mean that there is nothing happening on the stadium front. Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said there are a lot of issues that are being discussed, including the potential for a retractable roof, a timeline on playing at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium and concerns being raised by the state about having the facility available for college and high school baseball teams.

Many thought that the retractable roof component of the stadium was all but dead. In order to get approval for the $975 million stadium package, the Minnesota State Legislature was insistent that the stadium have a roof. While the Vikings have been on record as preferring an open-air stadium or a stadium with a retractable roof, the state essentially said that if the Vikings want a roof that opens and closes, they would have to pay for it themselves.

Bagley said a retractable roof issue isn't off the table, but it is currently in limbo while the process of hiring a construction manager is underway. Once that happens, a decision one way or the other is expected, but Bagley insisted discussion of a retractable roof or opening side wall is still in play.

"It's still very much alive as an issue that we need to resolve," Bagley said. "However, there isn't really much progress currently being made on that question. Until we hire a construction manager, we're kind of in a holding pattern, but the (Vikings) ownership is still committed to integrating a retractable feature, whether it's a roof or a side wall like they have in Dallas that would provide a view of the city."

Bagley said there are issues constantly being added to the plate of those in charge of the stadium design and the ongoing process of construction prep. Among them has been a recent push by area college baseball coaches that have played games in the Metrodome for years. They're seeking a stadium design that would include a footprint to play baseball because the climate in Minnesota isn't conducive to playing outdoor baseball in February and March, something they have been able to do for years by utilizing the Metrodome.

While the Vikings have little interest in creating a multipurpose facility that can house both baseball and football – the baseball sight lines at the Metrodome were dismal at best for more than half the seats – Bagley admitted that the baseball coaches have banded together and made their voices heard to the Stadium Authority that is overseeing the construction process.
Among the biggest question marks facing the new stadium is when the Vikings are going to vacate the Metrodome. Initially, the thought was that the Vikings would play at Mall of America Field for the next two season and play just one year on the U of M campus. However, Bagley said that it's looking more like 2013 will be the final year at the Metrodome and that the team will play two seasons at TCF Bank stadium before moving into their new home in 2016.

"From the feedback I got during the interview process with construction managers, it appears that a realistic schedule would have the Vikings playing in the Metrodome in 2013 and in TCF Bank Stadium in 2014 and 2015 before moving into the new stadium," Bagley said. "As things stand, this next season will be our last at Mall of America Field. Nothing is set in stone yet, but, from the feedback I received, that's where things are leaning right now."

It may be a quiet time in NFL circles as the 2012 season has ended, but behind the scenes of the Vikings stadium issue there is no offseason. If anything, activity is gaining steam and that process will only ramp up in the coming weeks and months as design decisions start being made and the stadium goes from concept to reality.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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