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Continued: Sid Hartman: Signs emerge indicating Wilfs would dump the Dome

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 2, 2009 - 12:42 AM

An indication that the Wilfs are going to have to make a decision about the future of the team when their lease expires on the Metrodome at the end of the 2011 season is that the Vikings owners have given orders to all of their executives not to sign any type of contract that expires after the lease does.

Steve LaCroix, the team's vice president of sales and marketing, confirmed this on Thursday.

Starting on Monday, a new contract with the Mall of America will result in the Dome being named Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The three-year naming rights deal runs through Feb. 28, 2012.

The Vikings have also signed Caribou Coffee and the Minnesota Army National Guard to sponsor exterior gate signs. One more sponsor is being sought.

"The Vikings are being aggressive to try to squeeze every bit of revenue out of the Metrodome," LaCroix said. "We face severe revenue challenges, even after the sale of field and gate rights. Field naming rights and gate sponsorships are part of an overall rebranding our stadium sponsorships as we transition into being the sole tenant."

But no long-term agreements are being signed.

"We are currently doing no local business partnerships past our lease terminating after the 2011 season," LaCroix said. "This severe revenue shortfall, combined with the end of the Viking lease, has the Vikings stadium situation headed toward a crisis. The Vikings' and the NFL's frustration is growing that our state leaders won't even engage in a dialogue on this issue. [Gov. Tim Pawlenty and state lawmakers] cannot just sweep this issue under the rug."

It might not be the Wilfs' decision whether the Vikings move when the lease expires -- it could be that of the other 31 NFL team owners, many with big incomes, who are sick and tried of shared revenue going to clubs not taking in the big money.

Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs/stadium development for the Vikings, said the other teams in the NFC North -- the Bears, Lions and Packers -- generate more than $30 million more per year than the Vikings at the Metrodome.

The Vikings get about $20 million a year in revenue sharing. They are 31st in league in revenue. Without that $20 million, the Vikings would lose money. Jacksonville is the only team making less money.

My prediction is that if the Wilfs don't get a favorable stadium vote, they will sell the Vikings to an owner who most likely would move the team.

Big game

No doubt the Gophers-Wisconsin football game Saturday is the biggest game in the three-year Gophers coaching career of Tim Brewster.

If the Gophers win this game and then follow up with a victory over Purdue the following week, Brewster and the Gophers will be 5-1 with a good chance to finish as high as 8-4 in the conference.

The Gophers have lost 12 of the past 14 games to the Badgers, many of which were very close games.

Saturday's game is also a battle for recruiting. The winner will get two or three outstanding players who will go with the team that shows the best.

The Gophers are in a good position to win this game because of the home-field advantage of the new TCF Bank Stadium. The coaches at Air Force and California, whose teams have played in the new stadium, talked about how the crowd noise made it impossible to run their offense like they could at other places.

One advantage the Gophers will have that they didn't have in the Metrodome is that Badgers rooters will be in the minority, rather than the majority as had often been the case in the past because, outside of the 3,000 tickets the visiting team is allowed, tickets were almost impossible to get.

This is a must-win for the Gophers if they expect to call the season a success.

Jottings

Gophers running back Duane Bennett, who rushed for 89 yards and three touchdowns in the 35-24 victory at Northwestern, said: "We've been preaching [running the ball] a lot since we started camp, and that's been our motto. So for it to emerge when Big Ten [schedule] hits, I think that's really big for us. It gives us a chance to be balanced, as you said, but it's really going to open up some things for [quarterback Adam] Weber, open up some things for [receiver Eric] Decker and also open up some things for the running game as well."

Twins shortstop Orlando Cabrera has hit safely in each of his past 12 games, batting .396 (21-for-53) with three doubles, one triple, one home run, 12 RBI, 16 runs scored and seven multihit games. Since being acquired from Oakland on July 31, he is hitting .275, he has hit in 40 of the 55 games he has played in, and he is hitting .333 with runners in scoring position since Sept. 1. This performance might be good reason to sign Cabrera, who will be a free agent after this season.

Denard Span leads the American League in four-hit games with six. The Twins outfielder leads all American League leadoff hitters with triples, with 10. He ranks third among AL leadoff men with 91 runs scored, .395 OBP and a .315 batting average. His 39 infield hits rank second in the AL behind Ichiro Suzuki.

There are nine AL hitters to earn three or more batting titles, and Twins catcher Joe Mauer could be the 10th. All but former Twins outfielder Tony Oliva are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The others are Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Rod Carew, George Brett and Wade Boggs.

Former Twins who will be involved in the baseball playoffs include Doug Mientkiewicz, Casey Blake and Juan Castro with the Dodgers; Dennys Reyes and Kyle Lohse of the Cardinals; Joe Beimel and Juan Rincon with the Rockies; J.C. Romero with the Phillies; David Ortiz of the Red Sox; Torii Hunter of the Angels; and Adam Everett with the Tigers, if they make it.

Don Lucia, the Gophers men's hockey coach, who has been troubled with sarcoidosis, says he is getting better. He was at Mayo Clinic this week to have his two-week checkup "My treatment schedule's gone from, it was every week last spring, to every two weeks this summer, and now it's going to be every three weeks at least through January and then we'll go from there," he said. "I actually do it right here on campus."

Former Gustavus Adolphus College and Vikings receiver Ryan Hoag has made the regular-season roster of the New York Sentinels of the United Football League.

Ty Munneke, the son of Timberwolves Vice President Jeff Munneke, is a member of the University of South Dakota golf team. He finished in a tie for second at the Augustana Invitational on Monday.

Sue Rubens, wife of Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson, recently won her age group at the Canadian Ironman Triathlon Championships. As a result, she qualified for the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii on Oct. 10.

The Wild is 7-0-1 in home openers lifetime at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild plays host to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday in its home opener. Wild tickets still remain for the home opener. The Wild opens the regular season at Columbus on Saturday.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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