By the end of this weekend, NFL teams have to announce whether they're going to take advantage of a change in league rules that would allow them to drop the percentage of non-premium seats in their stadiums that get sold in order to avoid blackouts. Don't expect the Vikings to be one of them for three significant reasons.
The first, and most obvious, is that the Vikings have sold out every game at the Metrodome – preseason, regular season and postseason – since some kid named Randy Moss and a businessman named Red McCombs showed up in Minnesota. Although in recent years the Vikings have had a few close calls in having potential blackouts – even having to get extensions from the 72-hour deadline to get the job done – when push has come to shove, the tickets were sold and the games were technically sellouts that were broadcast locally.
The second, and perhaps more important, reason is that with a new stadium on the horizon and at least one year (much more likely two years) of having the team playing at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, in order to have the first crack at tickets for the outdoor games, one must remain a season ticket holder.
Unlike other Big Ten universities that have cathedrals to their football teams with stadiums that seat 80,000 to 100,000 fans, the Gophers and their decades of lower-end finishes in the conference led boosters to build a 50,000-seat stadium that would look much fuller than had it seated 70,000. Nothing was quite as embarrassing for the Gophers as having home games at the Metrodome with teams like Iowa and Wisconsin and seeing more fans wearing the road team colors in the stands than the maroon and gold. If the Gophers played conference also-rans like Indiana or Northwestern, the Metrodome used to have thousands of fans disguised as empty seats because they simply couldn't sell 64,000 seats.
For the Vikings, selling 50,000 seats for the novelty of outdoor football – a novelty that will likely wear off before a potential second year at The Bank is finished – will be a snap because almost all of the seats will be covered by current season-ticket holders.
Third, and perhaps most important, is the yet-to-be-named new stadium that will be constructed on the current Metrodome footprint. Just as season ticket sales spiked for the Vikings at Metropolitan Stadium prior to the move the Metrodome, in order to have a priority for the best seats in the new stadium, one will have to be a current Vikings season ticket holder. The longer you've had season tickets, the better the seats you will be able to get in the new stadium. When the Vikings moved from the Met to the Metrodome, the concept of Personal Seat Licenses didn't even exist. The landscape in that regard has changed markedly and PSLs have become one of the primary ways teams have used to help defray the cost of stadium construction. If someone wants to have a seat between the 20-yard lines in some new stadiums, they have to be season ticket holders and hold on to them. It wouldn't be surprising to see season tickets sales surge because the fans want to assure themselves of priority seating once the new digs are opened.
To date, only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have taken advantage of the relaxed blackout provision, which allows teams to reduce the percentage of seats sold for a game from 100 percent to 85 percent in order to qualify as a sellout. A couple more teams (most likely Jacksonville and Miami) might take advantage of the new blackout rules, but one thing appears certain: If there are any more teams that implement the new rules, the Vikings aren't likely to be among them.
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.
Vikings seem unlikely to use blackout relief
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