Stay put, Vikings

Both University students and downtown benefit from the Metrodome’s current location.

John Grimley

In 2010, people saw what happens when you try to hold onto an outdated stadium. Last December, Minneapolis gained national attention when the MetrodomeâÄôs Teflon roof buckled under 17 inches of snow. It brought to light something that has become clear to even casual observers: The Metrodome is getting old. This has started talk of a new stadium and raised the issue of where to put it.

The Metrodome has been a fixture of downtown Minneapolis for well over a quarter of a century. It has hosted a Super Bowl, an NCAA MenâÄôs Final Four and two World Series. When the Dome opened in 1982, it was seen as a top-of-the-line facility. As the years have passed, the assumption has changed. Today most people agree that the Metrodome is really beginning to show its age.

As the Dome falls behind modern stadium technology âÄî with its cramped seats, muddy sound system and bruising turf âÄîtwo teams have already abandoned it for better homes. The Gophers migrated to TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, and the Twins followed a year later, heading to Target Field.

In 1982, the Vikings signed a lease that kept them in the Dome through the 2011 NFL season.

There are several paths the Vikings organization can take to a new stadium, ranging from Minneapolis suburbs to Los Angeles.

They can opt to move out of state, a possibility the organization is trying to leverage as an imminent threat to pressure the Legislature and Minnesotans into supporting the teamâÄôs version of a stadium bill. The teamâÄôs bill portions only a third of the total cost of a new stadium to the Minnesota Vikings.

The only realistic destination would be L.A. Billionaire Ed Roski has laid out plans for an $800 million new L.A. stadium that would feature a 600-acre complex and be exclusively privately funded. On the stadiumâÄôs website, the illustration shows seats that are painted purple.

It is well known that majority owners Mark and Zygi Wilf do not really have any local ties to Minnesota and probably would jump at the chance of moving the team to a more lucrative market like L.A.

But National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell has said that they would prefer it if all teams stayed in their respective cities. Additionally, the VikingsâÄô traditional rivalry with Green Bay and the strong established fan base means that other teams with uncertain stadium futures âÄî like Jacksonville or San Diego âÄî are much more likely to pack up and move away.

A second stadium scenario that looks more plausible has the Vikings headed to the suburbs, specifically Arden Hills, Minn. The team closely examined an abandoned ammunition factory from the area with the intention of making it the new site of Minnesota Vikings football. This seems to be a more likely scenario because the man Gov. Mark Dayton has assigned as head of the Sports Facilities Commission, Ted Mondale, already expressed the sentiment that the main issue is not where a stadium is built but how it gets built.

The third option, which would most benefit downtown Minneapolis and University of Minnesota students, would have the Vikings simply buying the Metrodome. Then the team âÄî with taxpayersâÄô assistance of course âÄî would gut the stadium to its infrastructure and rebuild it into a state-of-the-art pro football venue. This approach not only costs less but it leaves the Vikings in downtown, which is better for business owners and college students alike.

The main reason that both the downtown and college students would benefit with keeping the Vikings at their old location is transportation.

The Metrodome has been included in most public transportation routes. The light rail and several buses have stops just outside the great Teflon sky and there are also numerous parking opportunities in the various lots. The convenience of hopping a bus and forgoing parking and the after-game mess is something many people who have gone to Vikings games take for granted.

If the Vikings end up leaving downtown, itâÄôs highly likely that wherever they end up will not have nearly the transportation infrastructure that is already in place where they play now. Furthermore, itâÄôs worse for college students that choose to forgo a car while at school. If the Vikings head to Arden Hills, going to a game becomes a much bigger issue.

The distance between the Metrodome and Arden Hills is just over nine miles. Try to plan a trip using public transportation and youâÄôll see those nine miles seem a lot farther.

Leaving downtown makes going to a Vikings game something that will take lots of careful coordination, planning and foresight. A far cry from right now, where students can decide the day before a game. These characteristics do not mix well with a very popular tradition before and during football games: tailgating. Not only will students be forced to rely on their own transportation, but so will many other fans from around the metro area. Taxis are numerous in downtown, especially on Vikings game days when they swarm around the Metrodome. Moving out of downtown abandons the convenience of hailing a cab after a long day of tailgating.

If the Vikings end up leaving downtown, the impact will be felt by business owners, college students and downtown residents alike. Most wonâÄôt like the change.

 

John Grimley welcomes comments at [email protected].