Stadium Talk Just Getting Started

While the Vikings are trying to woo a new defensive coordinator, they are in the midst of an even more important negotiating game with the state's politicians.

Coach Mike Tice was concentrating on the Vikings' near future Wednesday while President Gary Woods and other team executives were focusing on the team's long-term future in Minnesota.

Tice picked up recently fired Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell at the airport in the morning and spent the day interviewing him for the defensive coordinator's position, which opened when George O'Leary left to become head coach at the University of Central Florida.

Woods, meanwhile, was at the State Capitol in St. Paul telling the legislature "the time is right" to build the Vikings a new stadium.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Twins also were at the Capitol presenting their own stadium plan. Throw in the fact the University of Minnesota also wants at least minimal public funding for a new on-campus stadium, and it becomes obvious there aren't enough state dollars to extract every team from the hideous and low-revenue-producing Metrodome.

The Vikings are asking for a 68,500-seat stadium that can be expanded to 72,000. The team was reluctant to get into specifics of a finance plan, but Woods said owner Red McCombs is carrying $125 million in debt on the team.

The Vikings insist they need a new stadium to remain competitive in the NFL. The team would expect to see in-stadium revenues increase between $20 million and $40 million in a new stadium.

Although no one will come out and admit it, the Twins are the No. 1 priority. After all, they almost were contracted by Major League baseball in 2002. Contraction will be discussed again in 2006.

The Twins want a stadium that will cost between $430 million and $450 million, not including infrastructure costs. The new Vikings stadium probably would cost more than $500 million.

The University of Minnesota is trying to raise private funds to finance most of the cost of a new stadium. However, they will ask the state to pay for infrastructure costs and possibly more.

It's hard to imagine both professional teams getting their wish to leave the Metrodome in the near future.

Although fans are more worried about hiring a qualified defensive coordinator such as Cottrell, they should be more worried about the Vikings getting a new stadium.

Although the Vikings have a lease to play at the Metrodome through 2011 and a pledge from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue for the team to remain in Minnesota until then, McCombs has said he will take the matter to court if the Vikings don't get a new stadium soon.

With the Los Angeles market vacant and the NFL salivating to put a team there, Minnesotans need to realize the decisions their legislators make during this session could affect whether the Vikings remain in Minnesota for the long term.



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