In a web chat on the Vikings' official website Tuesday, Lester Bagley, vice president of stadium development and public affairs, said that the Vikings have been approached by two different Los Angeles-based groups looking to bring the Vikings out west to fill the void in the country's second-largest media market.
A group headed by developer Ed Roski and AEG, a group headed up by former Minnesota Timberwolves CEO Tim Leieke, have both made overtures to Zygi Wilf, Bagley said.
"In 2009 when the NFL had an Owners' meeting in southern California, Mr. Wilf and Vikings management toured LA Live to try to get ideas on building a similar sports/entertainment district in Minnesota," Bagley wrote. "Clearly, the Vikings stadium issue is being followed nationally and it's no secret that we're down to the last year on our lease. We've told those groups that we are focused on resolving the issue in Minnesota. We feel solid momentum and feel we're well-positioned with the new legislature and governor. Instead of spending energy speculating on other markets, let's keep the focus on building a world-class facility for the community and the State of Minnesota."
The Vikings have waited for years to get a stadium deal, but as long as their iron-clad Metrodome lease was in force, there was little they could do. With the lease ending after the 2011 season, the Vikings could be free to relocate, which is why there is such a strong push to get a stadium deal done in the 2011 Legislative session. Without a lease, the Vikings could leave Minnesota, so many view this year's session as a "make or break" deal.
Bagley pointed out that the Vikings and the Wilf family remained "focused on resolving the issue in Minnesota," believe they have "solid momentum" building with a new governor, and significant new legislative assistance and keeping the team in Minnesota.
On the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" late-night talk show Tuesday, Magic Johnson said he is partnering with AEG to develop several business ventures – among them to bring an existing NFL team to Los Angeles. Roski has already made his intentions felt, having received approval to build a new stadium in the City of Industry – 15 miles from downtown L.A.
At this point, the best thing the Vikings have going for them is that it would be easier for an L.A. consortium to lure the Chargers up from San Diego or do the league a favor and take the Jaguars out of Jacksonville, but, until either of those happen, the Vikings remain an interest of the L.A. groups, which can't be comforting news for Vikings fans.
It isn't a gun-to-the-head tactic. It's a simple matter of Los Angeles wanting what Minnesota has and, if Minnesota isn't willing to protect its right to keep it, another Minnesota pro franchise could be heading west more than half-century after the Lakers took flight to Los Angeles from Minneapolis.
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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