Sharing U stadium an option for Vikings

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 15, 2008 - 11:42 PM

The new Gophers facility that opens next season is built to expand to 80,000 seats. If the Metrodome plan fizzles, it's a viable alternative worth considering.

There is no doubt the Wilf brothers never will give up on their hopes for getting a new Vikings football stadium on the current site of the Metrodome.

And certainly the Metrodome lot is the best location, with the access to light rail and its proximity to downtown. But the uncertain economy might make that impossible.

But failing to accomplish that, former Senate majority leader Dean Johnson -- who played a big part in the move to build the new Gophers football stadium and the Twins ballpark and now is a University Regent -- can't see any reason why the new Gophers stadium couldn't be expanded to make a new home to share with the Vikings. The pilings were put into the new stadium so that it can be expanded to 80,000 seats.

And in a recent conversation with University President Bob Bruininks, he made it clear that if it was a case of the Vikings leaving, he would be in favor of the Gophers sharing an expanded stadium with the team.

"We'd have to actually go through some environmental review process, but I strongly favor that. I think it's the right thing to do," Bruininks said. "We're all part of one community. I am one of the people that favors and supports the Vikings stadium, and I think we ought to find a way to get it done and certainly the University of Minnesota would be a cooperative partner in that process.

"... It's not a problem to expand the seating -- we've actually built this stadium so that we can expand it very easily at a reasonable price to 80,000 seats. So, we can expand it 30,000, nearly 30,000 seats, without any difficulty."

Bruininks said there are some steps that would need to be taken, political processes that involve consulting with the neighborhoods and the university community, that would have to be explored.

"But, certainly -- I'll just speak for myself -- I would want to try to do everything possible to keep the Vikings in Minnesota. I'm a Vikings fan, and I think the Vikings add a lot to our state and our community," he said. "But, we'd have to explore all those issues. But I can assure [you] ... that we would try to do everything possible to be cooperative and to work with the leaders in our state and the leadership of the Minnesota Vikings."

If this happened, the Metrodome could be kept for events that need a roof, including the NCAA basketball tournaments.

There would be financial advantages to the Gophers sharing the stadium with the Vikings when it comes to maintenance, and there would be substantial income from the Vikings to make the stadium first-class.

That Vikings lease with the Metrodome expires in 2011, so if there isn't some progress on a stadium, you can kiss them goodbye. They can't make it financially playing in the Metrodome.

Unfair to Childress

The situation at the Metrodome on Sunday, when a group of fans were screaming "Fire [Vikings coach Brad] Childress," is the type of incident that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to combat. He is trying to create a better atmosphere at NFL stadiums. All NFL teams have a fan code of conduct that allows those at games to have a good time without going over the boundary of decent behavior.

No doubt many of those fans had consumed enough alcohol, and stadiums on a typical Sunday can be the scene of fights and plenty of ugly insults.

Childress doesn't deserve this treatment, with the Vikings 3-3 and tied for first place in the NFC North. Furthermore, the three losses came on a last-second field goal against the Colts -- one of the top teams in the league, the undefeated Titans and the archrival Packers on a very emotional night -- their first game without Brett Favre. The Vikings could easily be 5-1 or 4-2 with a break or two.

Also, all teams deal with injuries, but I believe the Vikings have lost the best linebacker in football in E.J. Henderson. And offensive tackle Bryant Mc-Kinnie was suspended for the first four games.

At this point, the Wilf family is very content with the coaching job done by Childress. The owners, not those fans who know nothing about football, will decide the future of the coach.

Jottings

It is interesting that the NCAA comes out with these reports on progress in graduation of athletes, and again Minnesota ranks near the bottom for students who entered school from 1998 to 2001. If you want a more up-to-date report, however, all four seniors on the Gophers men's basketball team last year graduated. Furthermore, of the 12 seniors on the current Gophers football team, all have either graduated and are taking postgraduate courses, or will graduate before next June. And more than 80 percent of two previous football classes also graduated.

Good sources report that the deal giving Target the naming rights for the new Twins ballpark will cost $6 million a year.

When the Twins made the trade that sent pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett to the Rays for outfielder Delmon Young and infielder Brendan Harris, everybody in the media -- including me -- thought it was one of the best deals the club ever has made. But as turned out, had Garza and Bartlett stayed here and given the Twins a steady shortstop and an up-and-coming starting pitcher, the Twins definitely would have been a better team -- and maybe still would be in the playoffs.

There will be some 75 executives, scouts and other baseball employees of the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., starting Saturday for their annual postseason conferences. ... Scouting director Jim Rantz reports that two of the 12 minor-league free agents -- second baseman Alejandro Machado, who hit .338 last season, and lefthanded pitcher Jose Lugo who was 2-6 with a 4.04 ERA -- have signed minor-league contracts for 2009.

Glen Sonmor, a scout for the Wild and the color man on WCCO radio for Gophers hockey games, said he believes the biggest surprise on the Gophers will be forward Jordan Schroeder, who played on two St. Thomas Academy state championship teams, then took part in the Ann Arbor hockey program for two years. Sonmor looks for the freshman to make the Gophers a much better team this year because of his all-around ability.

Gophers football coach Tim Brewster will be in Austin, Texas, this week watching his son, Nolan, play on the Longhorns' special teams and renewing acquaintances with coach Mack Brown, for whom he worked for at North Carolina and Texas.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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