With the last hurdle to the stadium puzzle finally cleared (assuming the Minneapolis City Council passes their portion, as expected), the focus of the Vikings stadium project now goes from political wrangling to architectural logistics.
Several unanswered questions remain. Tops among them are how long they will be forced to play at the smaller TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.
In layman's terms, the construction of the new stadium will be half completed before the Vikings vacate the Metrodome. Ideally, the team will play the next three seasons in the dome and then play one year at TCF Bank Stadium.
The U of M site is not preferred by either the Wilfs or the NFL. Because the Gophers haven't been an athletic drawing card in years, they didn't need the 80,000-100,000 seat stadiums that power schools around the country have. The Bank seats 50,720 people – about 14,000 fewer fans than the Metrodome. When the Vikings play at the U of M, it will create its own set of logistical problems, especially in terms of potentially displacing season ticket holders while the finishing touches are put on the new stadium.
But, the bigger question is whether the theory of the stadium construction timetable can be accomplished. Constructing the stadium piecemeal has been done before, but the footprint in which those building the stadium will have to work with is extremely tight and some believe the potential for the Vikings to play more than one year at The Bank is a distinct possibility.
The current plan is to have the Vikings play only the 2015 season at The Bank, with the 20 months from the end of the 2014 season to the start of the 2016 season being used to demolish the current Metrodome and finish the construction on the new stadium. However, contingencies have already been written in for the Vikings to potentially play more than one season at The Bank.
One of the pieces of the stadium decision the Vikings had to get in place was the construction conundrum if the Metrodome site was the stadium location finally approved. The Vikings cut a deal with the University of Minnesota for improvements to its field in order to bring it into compliance with what NFL stadiums needs to be, including the installation of heating coils under the field that weren't part of the U of M stadium plan. As part of that agreement, the Vikings and the university struck a deal that would allow the Vikings to play at TCF Bank Stadium for more than the one year if needed.
Although the current plan is to simply play the 2015 season on the University of Minnesota campus, the contract between the Vikings and the university allows for up to four years of play potentially being allowed, starting as early as this season and running through 2015.
While nobody anticipates the Vikings moving out of the Metrodome this year, for the purposes of construction, it might make more sense for the Vikings to play two years at The Bank rather than potentially halting construction on the new stadium if it is running ahead of schedule.
As it currently stands, the timetable seems firm – the Vikings will play the next three seasons at the Metrodome, the 2015 season at TCF Bank Stadium and 2016 and beyond at the new stadium on the Metrodome site. That is the plan … in theory. Will reality follow along? Stay tuned, because the Vikings have the ability to speed up the construction process by relocating a year early to the University of Minnesota and, as reality trumps theory, don't be surprised to see it happen.
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.
Construction timeline remains a question
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