Two NFC Stadiums Serve as Vikings Footprints

Vikings officials were traveling to road games in 2005 to tour stadiums that might offer attractive ideas for a new Vikings stadium. They came away favoring staple concepts from two stadiums.

The Minnesota Vikings were anticipating that there could be some stadium hearings before the 2006 legislative sessions opens on March 1. The team recently renewed it original proposal with Anoka County.

Two NFL stadiums have emerged as favorites for the Vikings to emulate should the Minnesota legislature ever approve the state's portion of funding for a new facility for the team and the community.

The two stadiums that have most impressed the organization during their tours in 2005 are Seattle's enclosed Qwest Field and Green Bay's open-air Lambeau Field.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf originally wanted an open-air stadium, but Anoka County officials, who approved a deal calling for $280 million from their constituents to have the stadium built, thought the project would be more feasible for with a retractable roof that would allow for year-round use of the stadium. The retractable roof is now part of the $675 million plan.

Vikings vice president of public affairs Lester Bagley said Seattle's Qwest Field is intriguing because it can be an open-air atmosphere with an overhang that protects fans from the elements. The roof can remain open and still cover 70 percent of the seating area, according to the Seahawks media guide. Qwest is a 67,000-seat facility with an additional 5,000 seats for special events and 1,400 seats for fans with disabilities. The Seahawks, who made the Super Bowl for the first time in the franchise's history, have played three seasons at Qwest Field.
Green Bay's Lambeau Field was a favorite because of its large atrium area as part of an open-air stadium.

"We like Green Bay, not necessarily the bowl, but if we had open-air, they have the indoor club seats, they have the atrium – kind of the non-stadium amenities in that weather that you can keep your people warm," Bagley said. "That atrium had shopping and restaurants and year-round activities."

The proposed Vikings stadium would have 68,000 seats with a retractable roof and be available for concerts, NCAA Final Four tournaments and would likely be guaranteed to host a future Super Bowl if approved by the state.

"We are hoping to be in the position to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the team with a new Vikings stadium," Wilf said last fall, which marked the 45th anniversary of the team. "This is the crowning jewel for the whole community here."

Steve Novak, the Anoka County Government Services Division manager, said that the stadium would eventually create a surplus each year in the taxes generated, figuring it would be about a $200 million surplus over 30 years. The Anoka County commissioners had already voted 6-1 in favor of the local sales tax, Novak said, but the state may require the county to enact a referendum to allow the local increase.

An open-air stadium would have reduced the cost by about $100 million, but Anoka County said having a retractable roof will add to the community value of the complex, which would then be able to provide a year-round venue for events.

The Vikings feel compelled to have a new stadium because of their low ranking in several areas in NFL stadium receipts due to their lease with the Metrodome. Out of 32 teams, the Vikings were ranked in the bottom five in the league in profits, revenue and value in 2004, according to Forbes magazine.

Last fall, the Vikings and Anoka Country announced an agreement to fund $280 million each toward the building the stadium they say would cost $675 million. That left the state's financing of the stadium site at $115 million, plus another $115 million in roadway infrastructure support. Officials indicated those roadway projects were already in the state's "pipeline," but that they wouldn't be completed for decades without the stadium project.

The Vikings and the NFL each would contribute $280 million to the project, which would include nearly one-third of that cost in the Vikings' contribution coming from the NFL's G-3 loan financing program. The NFL's contribution would have to be repaid through stadium revenues.

Anoka County would enact a three-quarters of a percent sales tax in areas surrounding the development to raise its $280 million contribution, and the state would then have to approve at least an additional $115 million for the project to move forward.

There are several roadblocks, however. First, while Anoka County has approved the sales tax, some of the cities within the county are fighting to send that tax to a referendum. If that goes favorably for the Vikings, then the state would have to approve it's $115 million contribution to the project. The state would also be responsible for road-improvement projects in the area, such as adding an additional lane to Interstate-35W in Anoka County. The combined roadway projects would cost another $115 million.

To listen to Novak's opening statements on the stadium from last fall, click on the link below:

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