Vikings, stadium officials disagree over when Dome lease expiresby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio,
Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio,
Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A new disagreement has emerged between the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and the Minnesota Vikings over just how much time remains on the NFL team's Metrodome lease.
Commission Chairman Ted Mondale claimed Friday that last year's dome collapse, which forced the Vikings to play some games elsewhere, also triggered a clause that extended the lease by one year.
Mondale said he learned from his lawyers "a month or two ago" that the collapse triggered the clause in the lease.
"We believe that under the existing agreement, if followed all the way through, that they need to play here another year. That's my counsel's position," Mondale said. "In my reading of it, I think it could be two games or it could be another year. However, let me just say, under any scenario I think it's completely irrelevant."
Mondale said he expects the Vikings will play the 2012 season at the Metrodome regardless of the outcome of the contract dispute. However, the Vikings and Gov. Mark Dayton have said the Vikings could leave at the end of this season.
Mondale said attorneys for the Metropolitan Sports Commission told the Vikings about their interpretation of the lease clause about a month ago and are waiting for a response from the team.
"I've said to the Vikings, 'Look, if we're wrong, that's great. Just show me the case law or how we're reading it wrong,'" Mondale said. "So that's where we are."
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley disagreed with Mondale's assessment.
"We are secure in our legal position that the Vikings lease expires after the 2011 season, after this season," Bagley said. "It's not in the state's or anyone's best interest to look for any reason for a delay in the stadium solution."
The Vikings are pushing for a special session of the Legislature to take up a stadium bill before the lease expires.
GOP leaders said Friday they didn't know until this morning about the interpretation.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate majority leader Amy Koch appeared together on TPT's Almanac program.
Zellers said he learned from media reports about the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission contention that because the Vikings didn't play in the dome two days last season, a clause extending the lease is in force.
"Today's news actually adds a little bit more intrigue and probably a reason why it is time to slow things down a little bit, make sure that we're doing this right," Zellers said.
Zellers and Koch repeated the need for public hearings to help shape a stadium proposal. They didn't say when those hearings would take place.
A copy of the stadium contract is available here. The contract includes the following section that addresses what happens when the stadium has been damaged:
"In the event of total or partial destruction rendering the Stadium not suitable for playing home games or of a valid governmental order prohibiting use of the Stadium for home games, this Agreement will be suspended immediately as to playing home games until the governmental order ceases to prohibit use for home games or the Stadium is repaired.
"The Commission shall notify the Team within ninety days from the date the Stadium is no longer suitable for playing home games, whether the Commission will rebuild or repair the Stadium. If the Commission decides to rebuild or repair the Stadium, this Agreement will continue to be suspended until the Stadium is suitable for playing home games; and the Commission shall notify the Team of the Commission's best estimate of when the Stadium will be suitable for playing home games again.
"For each football season, or part of football season, while this Agreement is suspended, the term of this Agreement as provided in section 3 shall be extended by one football season."
- All Things Considered, 11/04/2011, 5:20 p.m.
Madeleine Baran is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.
Tom Scheck covers politics and government for MPR News.