Vikings on track to play TCF

The team will likely spend two seasons on campus, despite recent uncertainty.

Alexa Billadeau

The University of Min­nesota is planning for the Vikings to move in next fall — a visit that is likely to last only two seasons.

Last week, the Min­nesota Sports Facilities Authority announced the Vikings’ portion of the new stadium’s funding is more secure than before. This means the team will likely play at TCF Bank Stadium for two years instead of the possible four, earning the school at least $6 million in revenue.

According to the con­tract agreement, the Vi­kings could have played on campus for up to four foot­ball seasons. The length of time the team would play at TCF hinged on the Vikings getting funding for their new stadium. After months of financial uncertainty, MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said the Vikings are more on track than before in funding their portion of the new stadium.

The Vikings “will have the financial capability to move forward with the stadium project,” according to a state­ment released last week by the MSFA, which manages the new stadium project.

If stadium construction is delayed and the Vikings have to extend their time at TCF, the team has agreed to pay additional fees for more sea­sons, according to the agree­ment.

Kelm-Helgen said the Vikings will have a clearer picture of their portion of the new stadium’s funding in the next couple of weeks.

Changes to TCF

Structural changes to make TCF NFL-ready are expected to begin this spring, said Rick Johnson, director of capital planning and project management at the Univer­sity.

Expanding seating capac­ity, equipping the stadium for Minnesota’s January weather by installing heated turf and modifying concession stands are the main changes, said Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development.

He said the University’s stadium has significantly fewer seats than the Vikings’ home field, which could lead to a decrease in ticket sales if more aren’t added.

“We’d like to add a couple thousand additional seats for the expansion,” Bagley said, “because we have a season ticket holder base that is larg­er than 50,000.”

Until officials decide ex­actly how many seats will be added and the logistics of the heated field, he said, the total cost of the project is undeter­mined.

During the 2014-15 sea­sons, the Vikings are expected to pay the University $300,000 per game.

The team also has to pay for community outreach in the University area by contributing more than $100,000 per season to a “Good Neighbor” fund.

Benefits for business

Businesses and neighbor­hoods around the University will also feel the effects of the agreement, Bagley said.

“I certainly hope that the businesses in the surround­ing area, University Avenue, Dinkytown and elsewhere will see an increase in their business as a result of hav­ing what we hope will be a full stadium,” said Pamela Wheelock, vice president for University Services.

She said the area will be busier with both teams using the venue, and adjustments will need to be made to allevi­ate traffic congestion.

According to the agree­ment, the Vikings are allowed to play only on Sundays and on one weeknight game per season when classes are not in session. During the play­offs, more games are allowed. They are also advised not to schedule games on the same weekends as Gophers foot­ball games.

Wheelock said she feels confident about the upcom­ing changes.

“We really feel like this is a way that we can be a good community partner and help make this happen,” she said. “We’re going to use all of our best efforts to try to make it work well for everyone.”