Vikings seek 'fan experience' with stadium

The Vikings kept the fans and a competitive viewing market in mind when designing their new stadium. They concentrated on the "fan experience" to compete for the dollars of in-home viewers.

With NFL attendance in a tough competition for customers with today's in-home high-definition televisions, the Vikings in their new stadium design have also focused on creating a fan experience that can't be replicated elsewhere.

The plan, announced Monday night, includes amenities ranging from special lounges for following fantasy football results to intimate sightlines to the sidelines. Two giant scoreboards will measure more than 50 feet by 120 feet each.

"It's very important that fans feel they're not watching it from a blimp, that they're watching it from close to the field," chief executive officer Zygi Wilf said last year after the bill was finalized. "That's very, very important. We underestimate that when we go to other stadiums, the fan experience, sit in those seats and see how it would be, and a lot of stadiums don't have the closeness as we're trying to get here."

For Monday's event at the Guthrie Theater — a few blocks from where the stadium will be built in downtown Minneapolis — dozens of purple-jersey-clad fans snatched up the limited amount of free tickets available to the public, singing a couple of bars of the team fight song, "Skol Vikings," before the program began.

They cheered the handful of key officials who helped shepherd the project to approval through the tricky channels of state and city politics. One of the luminaries who appeared on stage to tout the design was former Vikings head coach Bud Grant, who took the team to four Super Bowls.

"I've always been an advocate of outdoor football," Grant said. "Not anymore."

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority unanimously approved the design, forwarding it on to the city of Minneapolis for review.

Minnesota lawmakers hoped they could pay for the stadium without new taxes, relying instead on electronic gambling devices in bars and restaurants to cover $348 million in state debt.

But establishments and their patrons have been slow to embrace the new games, and the money has been barely trickling in. The law gave state officials the power to launch a new scratch-off lottery game and impose suite taxes to cover any gaps.

Instead, Gov. Mark Dayton and top legislators are working over various options, including a new tax on the sales of cigarettes, to make up the difference.

Bonds to pay for stadium construction are supposed to be sold in August, but the state might alter the process to keep costs down. They've insisted that construction will proceed as scheduled.

The Vikings and the NFL are on the hook for $477 million, including a $200 million loan from the league. The city of Minneapolis will contribute $150 million, through redirection of existing hospitality sales taxes.

"We're using public money, but at the same time it's going to benefit the public," Vikings center John Sullivan said. "In my mind, as a taxpaying resident of the state of Minnesota, that seems like a good way to spend our tax dollars."

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