The Minnesota Vikings want to stop Wells Fargo from putting up mounted, illuminated signs on the rooftops of two new Minneapolis office towers because they violate an agreement and threaten to “photobomb” the image of the U.S. Bank Stadium in Downtown East, according to a Hennepin County District Court lawsuit.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said Wednesday that Wells Fargo’s steps to install the signs violate a February 2014 agreement between the bank and the team, referred to in the lawsuit as Minnesota Vikings Football Stadium LLC (StadCo).
The dispute is also a multimillion-dollar battle of bank branding. U.S. Bank has paid undisclosed millions to the Vikings to inscribe its name on the new stadium for the next two decades, including a massive logo across the roof visible from passing airplanes.
In a statement Wednesday, Wells Fargo spokesman John Hobot said, “We are satisfied with the signage package that was approved for our $300 million community investment initiative for our new campus in the historic Downtown East neighborhood.”
For more than two years, the subject of signage on the two 17-story Wells Fargo towers adjacent to the stadium has been intensely negotiated, mostly in private. The history and legal rights behind the size of the signs involve a tangle of Minneapolis zoning ordinances, site plans and interests including those of developer Ryan Cos., the banks, the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.
“StadCo has worked diligently to create and promote the development of an iconic, bold new stadium (now known as U.S. Bank Stadium) and related infrastructure in the Downtown East area of Minneapolis,” the lawsuit said, adding that the efforts included agreements with neighbors to “control and protect” the stadium’s image “since it will be an important landmark in the state for years to come.”
The Vikings and Wells Fargo agreed that the only rooftop signs on the two towers would be “non-mounted” and not illuminated, the lawsuit said.
“Agreeing to any rooftop signs was a major concession by StadCo, given that it had the ability to prohibit any and all rooftop and other exterior signage on the Wells Fargo towers,” the lawsuit said.
Recently, the lawsuit said, Wells started installing mounted, illuminated signs “in an effort to permanently photobomb the image of the iconic U.S. Bank Stadium.”
The issue is significant because the stadium area — and surrounding logos — are likely to appear on countless national television broadcasts for NFL games, including the 2018 Super Bowl and other prominent events at the stadium. That sort of prominence is at least partly why companies spend millions of dollars to put their names on sports stadiums.
In August 2014, months after the initial agreement was signed, Wells Fargo asked the Vikings to amend the signage agreement to allow for rooftop signs with “raised, illuminated lettering. mounted on beams more than a foot above the roof rather than painted on the roof as agreed upon,” the lawsuit said.
At that time, Wells Fargo also warned the Vikings that if the team didn’t agree to the change, the bank would circumvent the agreement by “lighting the entire roof of each tower, including the signs.”
More than a year of discussions found no resolution.
At a hearing on Dec. 30, the Vikings will ask Judge James Moore to issue an immediate order stopping Wells Fargo’s construction of the signs.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday. Wells Fargo has not yet filed a written legal response.