Now that owners Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf have been found to have the financial resources to contribute their share of the money to build a new Vikings stadium, some $477 million (including a $200 million loan from the NFL) of the $975 million project, look for an announcement perhaps as early as Friday for an agreement with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority on the stadium builders’ license program and how much fans will pay for licensed seats.
“[Seat-licensing money] goes into the construction of the facility and once we have a general agreement on parameters, then we will take that and put together a program,” said Lester Bagley, vice president of public affairs and stadium development. “It’s too early to know what the program will be until we finish the negotiations with the stadium authority.”
The Vikings have to guarantee their portion of the stadium money, and the builders’ licenses and seat licenses are part of that guarantee.
“It’s a one-time [builders’] license that goes into the construction fund to finance the … stadium,” Bagley said. “Yet to be determined is how many seats will have licenses, what the range of costs will be and the total amount that we’ll be able to sell or try to sell in the market.”
How much will each seat license cost?
“To be determined, but that’s [part of] what we’re working on right now with the stadium authority to sort that out,” Bagley said. “We’re not far off. We have a couple of open issues, but we’re very close to an agreement and the stadium authority’s goal is to have the deal announced and presented for action at their board meeting on Friday.”
Time running out
Bagley also said the deal needs to get done this week so construction can start on time.
“There’s not much wiggle room left in the schedule, and we’ve squeezed it all out over the last few weeks and months over our deliberations and this due diligence inquiry and everything else that is going on,” he said. “Now we’re down to the wire, and we need to buckle down and get it done. But we’re working well with the stadium authority, they realize it and we realize it and we have the same mission, which is to open a beautiful stadium that works for Vikings fans and everyone in Minnesota.”
Bagley wouldn’t be in London with the team if the license program wasn’t settled and ready for an announcement Friday, so the digging can start.
Issues remain with use of TCF Bank Stadium
The Vikings and the University of Minnesota still haven’t decided on all the adjustments that need to be made so the Vikings can play in TCF Bank Stadium for two years while the new stadium is under construction.
“What has to be determined … is what type of field heating system would we use,” said Bagley, referring to whether it will be a blanket tarp system or coils to heat the stadium field. They are also working on what the end-zone seating will look like — whether it’s temporary seating or standing-room-only tickets.
“All of those details are yet to be sorted through and we’re working well with the university,” Bagley said. “Once we get the use agreement, [the] development agreement nailed down with the stadium authority and get our London game done, we will turn our full attention to the university.”
Another question that remains unsolved is how the team will deal with where season-ticket holders will sit in the Gophers’ stadium, compared with their seats at the Metrodome. That same issue extends to the owners of Vikings suites.
“I think there is 36 suites at TCF Bank Stadium,” Bagley said. “We have 80 at Mall of America Field. Those are items that need to be sorted out. The suites, as well as the seats — if you have a 20-yard line seat at Mall of America Field, where does that fit in TCF Bank Stadium? All of that work is being put together and we’re going to have to work through that over the next several months.”
The university and the Vikings also will have to decide how concessions will work for Vikings games compared to Gophers games, especially when it comes to alcohol, and how different sponsors at the two stadiums will be advertised. Bagley insists those details will all be worked out soon.
The Iowa Hawkeyes have one weapon the Gophers need to keep under control if they want to win Saturday, and that’s Kevonte Martin-Manley, the 6-foot junior wide receiver and punt returner for the Hawkeyes.
While Manley has 20 receptions for 169 yards and one touchdown this season, his biggest contribution has been in the return game. He has seven punt returns for 218 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came last week in the Hawkeyes’ 59-3 rout of Western Michigan.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was concerned about his special teams units coming into this season, but Martin-Manley has alleviated some of those worries.
“We’re not there yet,” Ferentz told the Cedar Rapids Gazette this week. “But at least we’re, I think, starting to make some strides. That was a concern a couple of weeks ago, a big concern.”
Another Hawkeye the Gophers will need to stop is junior running back Mark Weisman. He rushed for 177 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries last year in Iowa’s 31-13 victory over the Gophers. This year Weisman is averaging 117 rushing yards per game.
• The Big Ten started handing out Freshman of the Week football awards in 2010 and two Gophers, both quarterbacks, have earned the honor: Philip Nelson won the award last year after throwing for 246 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-28 victory over Purdue, and Mitch Leidner won it this week after rushing for 151 yards and four touchdowns in thumping San Jose State 43-24.
• Jerry Kill and the Gophers coaching staff must also feel good about their No. 1 recruit for next season, Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones. In three games this season, Jones has 51 carries for 513 yards, 11 touchdowns and only one fumble. That’s averaging 171 yards per game.
• The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a story this week about team founder Art Rooney saying that he believed the Steelers’ 1976 team was the greatest in franchise history, even though it lost 24-7 in the AFC Championship Game at Oakland. That Steelers team started the season 1-5 before running off nine consecutive victories.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org