The Minnesota Vikings’ attempt to rename a portion of Chicago Avenue “Vikings Way” fell flat at City Hall on Monday night, when the city’s planning commission unanimously rejected the proposal.
The plan to rename the street in front of the future Vikings stadium has drawn significant attention in recent weeks, particularly from critics of the team. An application submitted to the city said that in addition to making the stadium their permanent business address, the team “strongly object[s] to having the street running in front of the stadium named after one of its opponents and neighboring rival” — a reference to the Chicago Bears.
The City Council is likely to have the final say. City Council Member Jacob Frey said he would like to see the team make more concessions on public access to the nearby Commons park before agreeing to a change.
Commissioners opposing the change Monday said it did not appear to meet city guidelines for street renaming, which emphasize not changing a street’s name in a section that keeps the old name on either side, and not naming streets after a particular business.
The hearing also revealed that one address unaffiliated with the Wilfs or the stadium authority would be affected: The Hennepin County Medical Examiner. The morgue’s address is now 530 Chicago Avenue, and city staff said it would have to change if “Vikings Way” is approved.
“My understanding of our policy here is that we don’t want private businesses to change the names of streets in front of their business,” said Council Member Lisa Bender, a member of the commission. “So if this was a proposal for Target Way instead of Nicollet Avenue or Wells Fargo way instead of Chicago Avenue, would we expect to be recommending approval of this name change?”
The Vikings have highlighted the precedent of renaming a street Twins Way beside Target Field. Commissioners said it was different, however, since Twins Way is not part of a larger contiguous street.
“Twins Way was actually former 3rd Avenue North, which was an orphan section of the road when the stadium was built,” said Commissioner Ryan Kronzer. “So it actually needed a new name.”
Commissioner Sam Rockwell said the Vikings had an opportunity to brand U.S. Bank Stadium with their name.
“We allow business names to be displayed in public. We allow them to be displayed on the buildings,” Rockwell said. “The Vikings decided to sell the [stadium] naming rights, which was their prerogative. But that was giving up a right of publicly displaying the name. It does not need to be compensated with city of Minneapolis advertising space.”
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said following the vote that the team has worked cooperatively on the construction of the Commons and contributed to the pedestrian bridge to be built over the stadium-area light rail station.
“To have this occur today is just disappointing,” Bagley said. “We asked for the street name to be changed to Vikings Way because the Vikings are a long-term iconic business. This would be our mailing address. This would be an honor to the Minnesota Vikings history and future.”
Frey said that any approval should be contingent on maximizing public access to the Commons, which can be reserved during Viking game days and other events during the year under a 2014 agreement. That could involve ensuring events there have no ropes or entrance fee.
“If we can return the Commons to a people’s park, I’m certainly willing to compromise on the editing of a street sign,” Frey said.