Downtown Minneapolis neighbors don't want a Dome II

  • Article by: JANET MOORE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 28, 2012 - 10:03 PM

Boosters want the new Vikings stadium to spur development - something that didn't happen with the Metrodome in the '80s.

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The Metrodome — or, as Mayor R.T. Rybak calls it, “a spaceship that landed in the middle of Minneapolis and said, 'Get out of the way.’”

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Backers of the new $975 million Vikings stadium met their neighbors from the eastern stretch of downtown Minneapolis on Thursday, and just about everyone agreed on this point: No one wants a repeat of the Metrodome.

Now largely surrounded by parking lots, the Dome never delivered much of a development punch since opening in 1982. But the new stadium project could revitalize a challenged corner of the city, said officials with the Vikings, the city and the newly created Minnesota Sports Facility Authority at a gathering Thursday.

"The Metrodome looks like a spaceship that landed in the middle of Minneapolis and said, 'Get out of the way,'" Mayor R.T. Rybak told a group of about 50 residents and business owners at the East Downtown Council lunch meeting. The stadium, as well as the Downtown East light-rail station will help link the Mississippi River, the West Bank, the University of Minnesota and Elliot Park in a more seamless manner, he said.

The stadium authority's executive director Ted Mondale and the Vikings said they envision the stadium competing to host a Super Bowl, perhaps as early as 2017, a Final Four and even a Big Ten championship football game. Rybak spoke of wooing a professional soccer team to Minneapolis.

But it remains unclear how the desired development, which is slated to break ground the summer or fall of 2013, will occur in what is still a tough economy for commercial real estate projects.

As about 50 attendees munched on cold cuts and hot dogs at the Dome's Gridiron Club, Rybak urged them "to put every picture you've seen of [the Dome] out of your head." The goal will be to create a neighborhood that will not only be attractive and bustling on game days, but the rest of the year as well.

What, exactly, that will entail is uncertain. The Downtown Council's 2025 plan envisioned the Vikings stadium for the west side of downtown, with the area around the Dome set aside largely for housing.

Mondale advised, "You guys need to think big here." Calling the stadium "probably the largest public-private partnership ever undertaken in Minnesota," he said "there are tremendous opportunities -- and the opportunity to make this an incredible, incredible part of downtown."

While the authority will oversee construction of the 65,000-seat stadium, the city will focus on encouraging developing land surrounding it, including five blocks owned by the Star Tribune. But all parties, at least for now, said they would work together in a holistic way to meet that goal.

Lester Bagley, a Vikings vice president and the team's point man on the project, said the facility "has to work for the community, the city, state, the east downtown community, the Vikings and our fans." He noted it will be a "balancing act between the needs of the team and the needs of the community."

One attendee asked who would pay for all the development projects beyond the actual stadium. City Council President Barbara Johnson said funding would likely come from "no single entity ... we'll continue to mine every single pot of money out there."

Rybak conceded that "if someone asked you if you wanted to live near a football stadium, they might not say yes. We have to change that."

James Norkosky, East Downtown Council president, said "everyone is concerned that this doesn't end up like the Dome. They need to incorporate the neighborhood and the people who work here."

Staff writer Richard Meryhew contributed to this report. Janet Moore • 612-673-7752

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