Stadium Work Still Going

While the Vikings pulled the plug on one particular joint stadium plan with the University of Minnesota over the weekend, that doesn't mean the two entities are done working with each other.

The Vikings informed the University of Minnesota this week that the proposed campus site for a new stadium is not workable in the team's estimation.

This came after the pre-designed study that was authorized by the State Legislature was completed. While the sides determined they could make several aspects of being co-tenants work, the Vikings gave several reasons for their decision.

In a letter to the university, the team cited significant infrastructure and traffic problems, inadequate parking, a delayed completion date (soil and groundwater contamination found at the site would have extended the process) and community impact.

"The problem is it's simply too small and too isolated," said Mike Kelly, the Vikings' executive vice president. "What the study showed is that in order for this site to work we would have to assume that nearly 50 percent of stadium patrons would arrive by bus. That's not workable by anyone's standards. It's a great disappointment for us.

"We all believed that this was the best solution. We still believe that it's the best solution to work with the University and find something that works for both of us."

The proposed stadium would have been built on the university's east bank, near the school's hockey arena.

"We both went into this hoping that this was the site," Kelly said. "The university identified this site as really the only one that they were willing to consider. We were excited about it."

Kelly compared the university site to where the Patriots' new stadium sits in Foxboro, Mass. Kelly said the Gillette Stadium was built on 110 acres, while the university site is only 32. He said $107 million in infrastructure spending would be needed to create 2,700 parking spaces.

According to Kelly, that also would have stopped the stadium from getting other revenue-generating events such as basketball's Final Four and World Cup soccer matches.

University of Minnesota officials were disappointed by the Vikings' decision.

"The Vikings, for their own reasons, chose to pull the plug on that particular proposal," university counsel Mark Rotenberg said. "We have not terminated these talks. The Vikings informed us over the last couple of days that they were not interested in pursuing this further with us. It is not the university's decision here to stop this train."

Maybe not, but the train has stopped for now. So what happens next?

"We're going to continue to work," Kelly said. "We hope that the university will continue to work together with us. I'm optimistic that they will, but to be realistic their first goal was to get football back on campus. We really tried to accomplish that goal. I don't know if there's another site that works, but we're going to have to work on that. We're going to continue to dialogue with them.

"As we go forward looking for sites we're going to take everything we learned from the study and use it. If we do find a site that works we're going to make sure that all the needs that have been identified by the University of Minnesota will be accommodated, and we hope that they will agree to continue to pursue that effort."

This could mean the Vikings will go to the legislature alone in their attempt to get a stadium. It also means the team could end up with a stadium in a suburb such as Blaine, where it would be able to control more revenue-streams, such as parking.

"The site is critically important to (the Gophers), it is not critically important to us," Kelly said. "They'll have to decide what role they would like to take, but I will represent that from this exercise we know what the University would like to see and needs to see in order to improve on their mission. We know what they need in a building in order to do what (Gophers coach) Glen Mason and the athletic department are trying to do. The exercise has taught us that. Even if we go for it alone we're going to make sure that we're sensitive to those needs and we give them a good plan and a good solution."

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