Time to do it right

Minnesotans have been living on the cheap with a football stadium for 30 years. It's time to make it a source of pride instead of just a bare-bones project that is consistently ranked at the bottom of the league.

The Metrodome met Mall of America Field on Dec. 12, just over two months ago.

For more than a year, a partnership between the Mall of America and the Vikings has left the media wondering how to best describe the place where the Vikings play. The stadium itself is and always has been the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The field more recently garnered a name as well – Mall of America Field. The Vikings, obviously, preferred the usage of that name … until it was sullied by old Metrodome roof slumping onto the new Mall of America Field.

Here's an idea. Let's just call the building what it is – outdated. The concourses are small, the bathrooms too few and the audio system a joke (when you can't understand what's being said, what's the point). And those are just the areas seen and heard by the public. Out of the view of most is the concrete crypt that tells it like it is: the Metrodome was built on the cheap 30 years ago.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission's website calls the Dome "Minnesota's Rec Room." It's been an oversized wrecked room for two months now. Incredibly, one estimate is that $9.8 million has been lost in those two months. If that figure would extrapolate over the course of a year, it would basically equal what it cost to build the Metrodome, which opened in 1982. It's a building that has paid for itself many, many times over.

According to the MSFC's web site, the Dome is the only stadium in the world to have hosted all of the following: the Super Bowl (1992), Major League Baseball's All-Star Game (1985), two World Series (1987, 1991) and the Final Four of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship (1992, 2001). It is used 300 days a year (until the past two months), but less than 100 of those days feature professional or major college sports. It's essentially a community building for high school and youth sports, concerts and club activities.

While the Dome has served Minnesotans and stuffed the public coffers well for much of its life, it's time to move on. Just not too far.

The Vikings are looking at a partnership with Ramsey County for a new multi-purpose stadium and the reason is pretty clear – Target Field is a baseball-specific field, TCF Bank Stadium doesn't winter well for Minnesotans wanting to enjoy a December (or colder) youth game and places like the Xcel and Target Center aren't laid out for sports that require more space, like soccer, football and lacrosse.

The location in Ramsey County is also the leader right now for one important reason. It's the only local community close enough to the metro area with workable land that has gotten serious enough about financing. Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said Ramsey County has a big enough tax base to handle the local end of financing for a stadium, but the stadium model for the Vikings would also require state help, at the very least in providing the costs for a roof, which adds anywhere from $180 million to $230 million, depending on if it's a fixed-roof facility or has a retractable roof. That is likely to be user-based fees.

For all the glowing reviews that Target Field has received as home of the Twins, you'd think Minnesotans would want to do it right with a football facility as well. A roof is a necessity as year-round facility, but adding another $40 mllion to $50 million for a retractable roof to make it a source of pride is the way to go. Feeling the sun beating down on a fall afternoon while having the option for protection during the January playoffs could keep the stadium full in good times and bad.

It would also give Minnesota a better chance to keep expanding the number of times the state has hosted the Super Bowl and NCAAs, making it a stadium that not only serves the local community, but brings in fans of many different sports to spend money in the state.

The Metrodome site is still an option, but only if the City of Minneapolis or Hennepin County is willing to contribute significantly to the price tag. Frankly, it would be a cheaper option since the infrastructure with light rail and interstates are already in place. But if those local government agencies are unable or unwilling spend the money, the important thing is to do it right so in better economic times Minnesotans aren't regretting the potential frugality in 2011 and staring up at another unintended hole in the roof.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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