A year after the Minnesota Vikings were suddenly forced to play a game at the University of Minnesota, the two sides finally are settling the bill.
The Vikings paid most of the $1.8 million original bill for playing at TCF Bank Stadium last Dec. 20, but school officials acknowledge they have been "flexible" with the team, knocking off about $86,000 from the original amount owed earlier this year and recently making a further reduction. The team now owes less than $50,000.
Scott Ellison, an associate athletics director at the university, said the school also allowed the Vikings to leave some costs unpaid until the team settles with its own insurance company. Ellison said the taxpayer-supported university was trying to be a "good neighbor," and was told the team's final check would arrive shortly.
Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president for stadium development and public affairs, said the team had already sent in its final payment. The unpaid balance occurred, he said, because "accounting [and] financial matters needed to be resolved." He said there was no dispute between the university and the Vikings over the bill.
The issue comes as the Vikings seek to build a $1.1 billion stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills, with taxpayers picking up an estimated $650 million of the cost.
After a snowstorm last December collapsed the Metrodome's inflatable roof, the Vikings were forced to play their last two home games elsewhere. The TCF Stadium game, against the Chicago Bears, came nine days after the roof cave-in and was hurriedly arranged for the university's football stadium.
"Being this was such an extraordinary event, the U wanted to help the Vikings and the [National Football League] as much as possible," Ellison said in an e-mail. "There is no book or script written for what we, and for that matter the Vikings, went through so we were as flexible as we could be with the Vikings."
The issue is significant because if a new stadium is built on the site of the Vikings' long-time Metrodome home -- a plan favored by city of Minneapolis officials -- the team would likely play more games at TCF Bank Stadium while the new stadium is being built.
A confidential university memo showed that the bill was originally $1.792 million last January, but was revised to $1.706 million in March. By March the team still owed $86,053.
"I don't know why the Vikings would want to dawdle on paying it back. It certainly doesn't make them look good," said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, a critic of using public subsidies for a new Vikings stadium. "[But] it doesn't strike me as a big deal."
The memo outlined the game's many unexpected costs, including $3,504.60 for police bomb dogs, $35,326 for extra snowplowing by Hennepin County and $5,225 for golf cart rentals. Temporary heating equipment for the game, which was played in frigid temperatures and on a slick field, totaled another $119,971.
The university also billed the team $1,590 to rent cash registers.
In an e-mail to Vikings officials earlier this month, Ellison told the team that "I have taken 15 percent off of the 'rent' we charged for Williams Arena for the warming house and the 2 club rooms used on game day." He added that "I also reduced the rent charged for the Band Spaces." Ellison told the team that its new balance was $41,990.22, down from $49,666.76.
"We had a use agreement, and we had an accounting of what it cost to put that game on and, basically, how much money we lost," said Bagley. He said the Vikings lost a "significant amount of money" because the game had to be played at the smaller TCF Bank Stadium as opposed to the Metrodome. Because the roof collapse forced the team to play two games elsewhere, said Bagley, the Vikings overall "lost tens of millions of dollars."
Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673