Vikings fans rally for new stadium

Football fans met at the Capitol on Thursday

by Mackenzie Martin

A crowd of about 50 Minnesota Vikings fans gathered on the Capitol steps Thursday afternoon to rally support for a new stadium for the team. Former Vikings players Bob Lurtsema and Matt Blair were among the swarm that braved the cold temperatures to call for a new stadium. Blair said the stadium would benefit not just the team but the entire community. âÄúThe culture of this state is the Minnesota Vikings,âÄù Blair said. âÄúTo lose the Vikings to another state would be an awesome disappointment.âÄù The VikingsâÄô lease for their current home at the Metrodome, where they pay annual rent of about $3.5 million, will come to an end in 2011. The price tag for the proposed new stadium is around $1 billion. The team, along with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which operates the Metrodome, will request funding for the project from the Minnesota Legislature this spring. âÄúWhat would Minnesota be without a football team?âÄù asked Bob Bukovich of Inver Grove Heights. Bukovich has been following the Vikings for 43 years and makes it to every home game. âÄúIf we lose this team âĦ we start all over again,âÄù Blair said. But for many fans, being able to watch a football game on Sunday is but a small part of their love for the team. College student Dan Henrichs of St. Paul said Sunday Vikings games have brought his family together since he was little. Henrichs said heâÄôd be willing to pay âÄújust about anythingâÄù to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, and suggested taxing items such as gas, football tickets and fast food. For Shirley Bowden of Woodbury, Vikings football was what finally sealed the deal in convincing her husband to move from Georgia to Minnesota. As soon as she knew moving was a possibility, she bought season tickets âÄî even before the couple found jobs and bought a house. BowdenâÄôs explanation was simple: âÄúItâÄôs my passion,âÄù she said. Save the Vikes founder Cory Merrifield , who organized the rally, said he was driven to start up the organization in support of a new stadium when he realized just how far the teamâÄôs influence reaches across the state. Merrifield, who proclaimed he has âÄúbeen bleeding purpleâÄù since he was just eight years old, said he has a fear of losing the Vikings. âÄúI want us to unite against that fear,âÄù he said. âÄúWe are going to get that stadium for the state of Minnesota,âÄù Lurtsema said to the cheering crowd.