A day after a Vikings stadium won passage at the Capitol, the University of Minnesota advanced a deal that would allow the team to play at TCF Bank Stadium during construction.
The Board of Regents approved a resolution Friday authorizing U President Eric Kaler to deliver a non-binding letter of intent to the Vikings. Next, the parties would draw up a lease agreement, which the board would vote on in late summer. As landlord, the U stands to make $3 million per NFL season.
The letter allows the team to play at the Bank for up to four consecutive NFL seasons, starting in 2013. Mark Wilf said Friday that the team would play there "one season for sure."
Mark Rotenberg, U general counsel, told the regents that the agreement protects the university's mission, relationship with neighbors and bottom line. "We are not a land-grant university whose mission is to subsidize for-profit entertainment businesses," he said.
The letter, a copy of which the U did not release, leaves open the issue of alcohol sales.
At a minimum, the Vikings want to sell hard liquor in the club seating, boxes and suites, Rotenberg said, and beer and wine throughout the stadium. Rotenberg, who has been negotiating with the Vikings for months, said that he is "not willing to promise what the University of Minnesota would do in the area of alcohol consumption and sale," he said.
Regent Dean Johnson said he would be concerned about the Vikings selling hard liquor throughout the stadium. "This is a university campus. I think there needs to be some kind of control."
Alcohol deal will be separate
Alcohol sales will need a separate approval by the regents. Under legislation approved this spring, the U is allowed to sell alcohol at Gophers games as long as consumption by those in the general seats be restricted to a "beer garden."
Under the letter of intent, the Vikings will pay the university a fixed fee of $250,000 per game. In addition, the Vikings and the university will split money that comes in from concessions, sponsorship and advertising, likely amounting to about $50,000 a game. That plus the rent for two pre-season and eight regular-season games means the U will take in $3 million over the course of a season.
The revenue the U gets from this agreement would likely benefit the Department of Athletics, Kaler said Friday. But "we have not made a final decision on that."
After a 2010 snowstorm collapsed the Metrodome's inflatable roof, the Vikings quickly moved their game against the Chicago Bears to TCF Bank Stadium. That served as "a very excellent experience on which to base this plan," said Kathleen O'Brien, vice president of University Services.
Team will pay for changes
The team could lease the stadium for up to four consecutive NFL seasons, likely starting in 2013, or may play at the Bank for all or part of one NFL season, probably in 2015. The university stadium would be available for only Sunday games and one weeknight game per season.
Under the deal, the Vikings would reimburse the university for the $5.8 million it would likely cost to winterize and otherwise ready the stadium for NFL play. About half that amount would go toward installing specialized heating coils under the field. In addition, the team would pay to put up 3,200 temporary bleacher-style seats in the western end-zone plaza.
Regent Laura Brod said that it's important to emphasize that "we are not subsidizing the Vikings. They are paying the full freight."
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168