The Metropolitan Council forces a 30-day delay to approval of the team's new practice facility

The Minnesota Vikings are putting the final touches on U.S. Bank Stadium, but with 60 days until its opening the organization is looking at starting another major project -- a new headquarters and practice facility in Eagan. The Metropolitan Council threw a wrench in the plan, resulting in a 30-day delay.

The Minnesota Vikings were scheduled to get the full go-ahead on construction at their new practice facility Monday, but the process has been pushed back a month thanks to an 11th-hour objection by the Metropolitan Council, which oversees policies for the Twin Cities metro area to give the region a common vision for growth and projects, from city expansion to road projects.

The Met Council has been a controversial group over the years, since it wields a lot of bureaucratic power, but its members aren’t elected officials. When the Vikings announced their plan last year to move their team headquarters from Eden Prairie by constructing a massive multi-phase team headquarters and practice facility in Eagan, it quickly jumped the majority of the early hurdles with the City of Eagan and Dakota County.

However, a late objection from the Met Council will result in the anticipated final hurdle – official approval from the Eagan City Council for the proposed construction on the 185-acre site that formerly housed Northwest Airlines.

Because of the Met Council’s objection, the hearing to approve the plan was pushed back from the Eagan City Council’s May 23 meeting to its June 21 meeting. While the ultimate decision lies with Eagan and Dakota County, the project plan needs the Met Council’s endorsement and Lester Bagley, the Vikings Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development, expressed surprise and some anger about the timing of the Met Council objection.

“It was a little frustrating because the Met Council had a couple of months to evaluate the proposal and express any concerns they might have,” Bagley said. “There was a comment period and 30 minutes before the comment period, they filed an objection. It was a little frustrating because we’ve been very diligent. This proposal was not opposed by MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation), the city or the county, but the Met Council raised a concern.”

The Met Council isn’t raising an objection that could turn out to be a deal-breaker, but planners wanted more information about how the project, which is expected to include a 10,000-seat stadium at some point, could potentially impact intersections along Hwy. 55 – a main arterial route in Eagan that experiences high-volume traffic.

Bagley said work has already begun and that the Met Council objection, while poorly-timed, is simply part of the body doing its due diligence to make sure any significant questions are adequately answered.

Getting approval earlier than later will be critical because the hope was to break ground and begin the project within the next couple of weeks. Any significant delays could push the opportunity for the Vikings to move into their new headquarters a full year.  “We’re pretty confident that this won’t result in a significant delay,” Bagley said. “Keeping the project on track is crucial because we have a pretty tight schedule that we’re looking to keep. We have one window to move from our current Winter Park facility into the new practice facility and that’s in the spring of the year. If we lose a month, we could lose a year – the difference between moving in 2018 and 2019.”

Bagley said the question raised by the Met Council was addressed during the vetting process, but the council wanted more detailed information about projected traffic counts and how the implementation plan for the project would impact traffic during the development stage.

Once the Vikings got the word, both the organization and the Met Council began working immediately on providing all information it was felt would be needed and the results have been positive over the last week, but he wishes those talks had taken place a couple of weeks earlier than it was so as to avoid a delay.

“The good news is that everybody rolled up their sleeves and worked through their concerns,” Bagley said. “They had some questions. They thought there was a piece missing. It wasn’t that they objected or opposed it, they just felt there was more information needed. That’s fair, but they had at least a couple of months to let us know they had an issue and they waited until the last second. We did have to punt and move the full city council hearing from May 23 to June 21.”

While the delay will push the project back 30 days, it isn’t seen as being a hindrance to getting the construction started this summer and being completed in time for the Vikings to relocate to their new facility in the spring of 2018 – giving Minnesota a pair of state-of-the-art facilities for Minnesota football fans to watch games being played. The stadium located planned for their new team headquarters could host training camp and big high school games.

“The bottom line is that there is full cooperation to get the work done, get Met Council the answers they are looking for and get the project back on track,” Bagley said. “We’re still confident we’re going to get this thing through in June and break ground before the end of June. Our plan is that not only are we going to have the best stadium in the NFL, but the best practice facility as well. Facilities are important in a very competitive league and we’re going to have two of the best in the league in a couple of years.”


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