Vikings stadium consultant Lester Bagley is encouraged with the new progress
that is being made in finding a stadium solution. Granted, the Vikings were told
to not even approach the state legislature while they were in session earlier
this year due to the State of Minnesotas massive budget deficit. And owner
Red McCombs remains frustrated by the lack of progress over the last year.
But no one is closer to the process than Bagley, who has been working as a consultant for the Vikings for years under the McCombs ownership, and this week Bagley discussed with Viking Update some of the details regarding stadium progress and the architectural renderings. (The larger scale renderings can be found below.)
While discussions with the University of Minnesota arent progressing rapidly, Bagley is encouraged by Gov. Tim Pawlentys view on the topic. "The governor has stated that its time to solve the problem," Bagley said. "Were very heartened by the comments the governor has made recently."
The Vikings realize that the more likely scenario will still involve the University of Minnesota, and their latest images produced by Crawford Architects of Kansas City reflect some of that, but with university officials largely concentrating on their own efforts right now, these latest rendering are heavily Vikings-biased.
The stadium would seat 68,500 (and could be downsized to accommodate a smaller Gophers crowd) and have a retractable roof. The Vikings need a roof -- retractable or not -- says Bagley, and the Gophers would prefer on open-air stadium. The compromise, a retractable roof, is the most expensive option, with an estimated price tag of about $450-$500 million, which is still far less expensive than building separate stadiums for the Gophers and Vikings. A fixed roof stadium would cost about $425 million and an open-air stadium would run about $350 million, according to Bagley.
Bagley also concedes that the Twins are in need of a new facility as well, if they are to move up from near the bottom of Major League Baseballs financial rankings. However, another dual-purpose Vikings-Twins stadium doesnt sound like an option to the Vikings or Pawlenty, but the possibility of sharing the infrastructure (roads, parking lots, and possibly restaurants and stores) between Twins and Vikings stadiums that are both part of a larger sports complex could happen. That could save as much as $100 million off the price of two separately located stadiums.
The issue of the Gophers is likely one of the largest hurdles to overcome. The university would like a stadium on or near campus. Location isnt a huge issue for the Vikings, Bagley said, but a Vikings stadium would have to be located on a plot of land that has the appropriate infrastructure to handle the NFLs larger crowds.
In St. Paul, locations near the East Campus or State Fairgrounds are a possibility. In Minneapolis, a sports complex could work, too. Finally, Anoka County has a strong group that has been openly courting the Vikings to explore the options there, but, as is the case with any publicly funded stadium, "Anoka has no magic solution (for how to finance it)," Bagley said.
The Vikings are now in somewhat of a race against other NFL teams seeking stadium deals. The NFLs G-3 financing plan --which could contribute about $50 million, depending on McCombs' contribution -- has been extended to March 2004, but now there is a limited amount of funds that could dry up. If other cities -- San Diego, Dallas and New York (Jets) are all aggressively seeking new or renovated stadiums -- beat the Vikings to a public-private financing solution that could dry up the G-3 funds.
While progress is being made, McCombs does have reason to be frustrated. Since 1992, 26 of 32 NFL teams/cities have renovated or built new stadiums. In the Vikings' own division, Ford Field (Detroit) opened last year, and Soldier Field (Chicago) and Lambeau Field (Green Bay) will unveil their new renovations this season.
The release of the latest renderings is simply an effort to update the public on the situation, and the Vikings will make a more public push among their fans, the timing of which is scheduled to coincide with the start of training camp on July 25. Overall, the Vikings still have many obstacles to overcome in their stadium efforts. Still, Bagley remains confident.
"It is developing," he said. "I think it is going to happen."