Groups to divvy up $125K from Vikings

The team will donate money and goods each year it plays at TCF.

Alex Bitter

As the Minnesota Vikings prepare to play at TCF Bank Stadium next year, the team is bringing along funds for surrounding neighborhoods.

The football team will contribute $90,000 in cash and $35,000 in in-kind contributions per season for “high-visibility” projects in the neighborhoods around the University of Minnesota. University Community Relations outlined how it and the football team will grant the funds at a meeting Wednesday night in Southeast Como.

University Community Relations director Jan Morlock said the Good Neighbor Fund Management Committee, which will award the money, is looking for larger proposals that show collaboration between neighborhoods.

“We thought that we might get more significant projects of more lasting impact if we encouraged the groups to work together in some way,” she said.

But Southeast Como Improvement Association neighborhood coordinator Ricardo McCurley said the projects they’re considering are smaller in scope.

“To implement them at a scale of $20,000 is taking a big risk for us,” he said. “Many of these projects are more like $5,000 and $10,000 projects, and up-scaling them without testing them in shallower waters is a risk.”

The University’s contract with the Vikings stipulates the team must pay $90,000 and donate $35,000 in goods and services each year of its stint at TCF, which will likely last two seasons but could be up to four.

Neighborhood and business organizations will be able to apply for a share of the money, collectively known as the Vikings Good Neighbor Partnership Fund, by submitting grant proposals to a board composed of community leaders and a representative from the Vikings.

Kieron Frazier, Vikings associate counsel who is serving on the grant committee, said the in-kind donations could come from some of the many companies that sponsor the team.

“We have a plethora of sponsors throughout the Twin Cities,” he said. “It’s really just as creative as you can be.”

The University set up the Good Neighbor Fund in 2007 to benefit the communities around the stadium. This year, $41,000 from the general fund will be available for projects, in addition to the Vikings money.

McCurley said many neighborhood organizations are small, and they’ll likely have to include funding for additional staff in their grant applications, especially for larger inter-neighborhood projects. Morlock said she expects to see this in the applications.

McCurley said Southeast Como would need to expand many of its potential projects or include other neighborhoods to fit the larger grants the money is meant to fuel. Southeast Como wants to use the money for smaller projects, like buying more equipment or garden tools, creating a “food mobile” to distribute produce from the area’s community garden or upgrading Van Cleve Park.

“It’s one of the few parks in the area that has major facilities and fields,” McCurley said.

Southeast Como could also ask for additional funding for the Pack and Give Back program, which picks up reusable items students don’t want when they move out and redistributes them to the University’s ReUse Program Warehouse or the Salvation Army, McCurley said.

Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association President Cordelia Pierson said the neighborhood association is petitioning residents for project ideas this week.

One proposal will likely attempt to improve trails and recreational areas between Dinkytown and the Mississippi River, she said.

“It is a transformative opportunity for our neighborhood to connect our thriving commercial area of Dinkytown to … the Mississippi River,” she said.

Applicants must be part of the Stadium Area Advisory Group to be eligible for funding, Morlock said. Members include neighborhood organizations, business associations, cities and counties around the University.

Proposals are due Jan. 31, 2014. The committee will review proposals next spring and announce recipients next July.