Vikings cool to proposed stadium planby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Architects and planners laid out a vision for a new Vikings football stadium on Thursday.
Under the plan unveiled in front of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, a mammoth Teflon tent would cover the site of the 27-year-old Metrodome by 2013. The new stadium would cost $900 million, but there's no clear way to pay for it and even the Vikings say they're not on board yet.
The design features a conventional stadium covered by a single soaring east-west rib and a Teflon roof 300 feet over a new football field. A retractable panel would open the south slope of the roof to the sky and a giant transparent wall would face downtown.
That's what architects unveiled Thursday morning to replace the Metrodome and it's a nod toward the traditional Native American wigwam and even the planked curves of Scandinavian sailing ships.
"The goal here was to create a communal resource, a communal physical resource that is the embodiment of the spirit and character of Minnesota," said Bryan Trubey, with HKS Sports and Entertainment. "In other words, we want this building to be absolutely and totally unique to Minnesota."
HKS are the architects of the $900 million plan to tear down the dome and put a new 65,000-seat venue in its place.
Trubey said it would feature state-of-the-art computer and building technology and space-age materials, like a new generation of Teflon fabric for the roof. It would only be half the size of the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, but it could accommodate everything from political conventions to wrestling matches.
The main tenant, though, would be Minnesota's NFL team.
Thursday's unveiling was aimed in good measure at closing the rift between the Vikings and the state over the team's home.
"This meeting is a public accounting of our stewardship of what we have done in our efforts to protect and defend and safe keep the NFL franchise we know and love as the Vikings here in Minnesota," said sports facilities commission member Paul Thatcher.
But the prospects of moving the team into a spacious new home did little to please the Vikings, who have played in the Metrodome since the early 80s. The team's lease on the stadium runs just two more years.
Team officials praised the design -- they helped pick the architect that drew it up. But team vice president Lester Bagley said the Vikings are more interested in the mortgage than the building.
"We have had input, and we do know that the work is solid," Bagley said. "We need to study it more, but more importantly, our state leaders, and business and labor and others that have a stake in this need to really study it and understand what the costs are [and] what the opportunities are."
That's been a sore point for the team and its landlords. The Sports Facility Commission said this fall that they want the Vikings to agree to a lease extension while they sort out the stadium situation.
The team responded angrily to the idea, saying its facility needs are too urgent to put off any longer. The end of the lease might also let them relocate, perhaps to a new home and more lucrative market, like Los Angeles.
But the unveiling did little to patch things up between the team and its landlord.
The plans did call for construction to begin as soon as next year. The team would play in the Metrodome until 2011, then move to the University's TCF Bank stadium for two years while the dome was demolished and its replacement built on the same site.
Mortenson Construction officials also said the project could expect a 9 percent discount during the recession and put thousands of people to work.
But there was no mention of financing and no sign that a private meeting this week between Gov. Tim Pawlenty and team owner Zygi Wilf had broken a decade-long standoff over who would pay for a new NFL stadium.
Sam Grabarski of the Downtown Council said the Minneapolis business community did expect to pick up some of the bill.
"They are anticipating that it's going to take a lot of creative thinking about how to pay for a facility of this cost, and that they are anticipating that there could be a fair share that they would have to participate in," Grabarski said.
But entertainment and lodging taxes in Minneapolis are already among the nation's highest, and Hennepin County just adopted a new sales tax for a new Twins stadium.
The state is also still reeling from a $4.6 billion state budget crisis last year. Lawmakers will have another $1.2 billion in red ink to deal with again in February.
Republican state Sen. Geoff Michel, of Edina, said no one should get their hopes up that a new stadium plan will be getting off the drawing board any time soon.
"I'm a big Viking fan. I hope we're cheering for them well into January, and even a Super Bowl," Michel said. "But I think we have so much to do already. I think the Vikings, and I think they would admit it, know that they're pretty far down the list of priorities right now."
As it is, the stadium wouldn't open until at least 2013.
- All Things Considered, 12/17/2009, 5:41 p.m.