Conservative Minnesota is getting a lesson from the big money out East and it’s going to be a masterpiece (not the lesson, but the result).
Minnesotans are known for their frugality, and this writer has been indoctrinated pretty soundly, browsing the bargain racks on occasion and getting passed the coupons by his wife. But sometime you’ve just got to splurge and this time Minnesotans are being treated to the luxurious ways by a New Jersey billionaire.
Yes, Zygi Wilf and family will recoup the money they are putting into the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium nicely, and probably several times over. If you’ve got to spend money to make money, the Wilfs and their wallets are showing the locals how it’s done.
On Friday, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority approved another infusion of money from the Vikings and the Wilfs into the stadium. For those who were worried about cost overruns on the stadium when legislation was being bandied about three years ago, their concerns are proving unfounded. Legislation said the public wouldn’t put in a dime more than the $498 million that was approved and they haven’t. They shouldn’t either – it’s not their money, it’s the taxpayers.
The Wilfs, however, are free spend above their original $477 million commitment, and, boy, have they. Not once or twice, not a couple million here or there. No, the Wilfs have kicked in additional funds 11 times to the stadium project.
Their $26.4 million contingency guarantee was gobbled up in November 2013. Last year, there were additional kick-ins of $1.2 million, $1.3 million. $19.7 million, $518,000, $647,000 and $1.2 million. This year has brought more of the same: $944,000 in January, $2.3 million in February, $19.5 million in March, $1.2 million in April and then Friday’s $14 million, the latest because fans in a stadium can apparently never have enough TVs (now there will be 2,000 of them).
All total, the Vikings are investing $566,212,870.71 … for now. Those figures don’t include $8.5 million annually (and raising 3 percent each year) in rent, the highest mark in the NFL. But if recent history is our guide, there are likely to be more upgrades to make Wilf World everything they want and something fans have never seen before.
But the pageantry of the stadium goes beyond the dollars invested. Those are the just seeds that bring the incredible edifice to life. The designers and architects have done a marvelous job of cooking up a plan that caters to everyone, from a block of affordable seats to high-end service for the well-heeled.
One of the sections, Club Purple, even offers a deck for fans to step outside and enjoy the views of downtown during the breaks, similar to Target Field’s deck, along with making it a fantasy sports headquarters. Lounge-style seating will also be a hallmark of Club Purple.
The park outside the stadium will provide gathering areas for fans before the game, with seven acres of “programmable” places that will easily dwarf the Metrodome’s crowded and constricted tailgating areas. The building itself is nearly twice as big as the Metrodome was, a whopping 1.75 million square feet.
Field-level suites and access to the players’ field entrance will allow some fans to get right next to the players as they enter the field.
But not all the bonuses of the new stadium will be seen attached to the physical infrastructure. Some of the perks will reside in fans’ smartphones. The Vikings are building apps that will take care of everything from updating the traffic on the way to the game, foot traffic around the stadium, fantasy updates, in-game highlights and the ability to order food from the app and have it ready when you get to the window.
Gone are the days of the crowded corridors of the Metrodome, with the concourses at the new stadium two to three times as wide, and the food options will be plentiful.
With the largest translucent roof and retractable doors in the world, fans will be able to see outside world, but the biggest eye-opener will be building that doesn’t appear to be cutting any corners. So far, just the basics are taking shape, but in 14 months the full specter of the investment will be ready and it will be a Minnesota masterpiece.
Sunday slant: Spectacular stadium unfolding
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