Bernie Friel sees the brightly lit “Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center / Home of the Minnesota Vikings” sign and the Norseman logo, prominently displayed on the team’s new fieldhouse in Eagan, each night from his Mendota Heights home. He doesn’t like the view.
“I’ve been irritated by the sign for some time,” said Friel, who lives about a quarter-mile from the practice facility. “It’s light pollution.”
He’s not the only one. Several residents who live near the complex are irked by the glowing white signage, which they say changes the peaceful nature of their neighborhood.
Vikings’ staffers moved in early March into the 277,000-square-foot, custom-built complex, twice the size of the team’s former home in Eden Prairie. The lights adorn the north side of the facility, alongside Interstate 494.
The neighbors raising questions live across the freeway in a residential area amid winding roads, ponds and a middle school.
“The thing is, it’s just so illuminating, 24/7,” said Steve Gaertner, who lives less than a mile away. “I guess my question is, do they have to light it up all night? Do the Vikings really need that type of advertising at 11, 12, 1 o’clock in the morning?”
Tom Garrison, a spokesman for the city of Eagan, said city officials first received a complaint about the lights in late February and checked to see if the building met city code. It does, he said. “Brightness levels are the same as other wall signage in Eagan,” Garrison said, adding that the amount of signage allowed on any building is based on a percentage of the building’s facade.
For their part, Vikings officials said they only found out about the complaints on Thursday and are discussing them.
“Certainly we understand the concerns,” said Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson. “It’s our intent to be a good neighbor and ensure that this project works for the city of Eagan, works for the surrounding communities and residents, and it works for all the visitors.”
The lights aren’t dimmable, Anderson said, so that’s not an option.
Though spring practice doesn’t start until April 16, the lights are on each night because the facility is being used by Vikings employees.
“I would liken it to the stadium downtown,” Anderson said. “We’re certainly proud of our facility and [the exterior lighting] is just part of the design of the building.”
Early in the planning process for the facility, the team’s owners made changes in response to residents’ concerns about the adjacent practice stadium, which is still under construction. That building was lowered to minimize light and noise pollution, Anderson said.
Mark McNeill, Mendota Heights city administrator, said city officials are aware of residents’ complaints. McNeill said he asked Eagan officials Thursday about the possibility of dimming the lights during certain hours and was told the request was being forwarded to Vikings officials.
McNeill said it really was an issue for Eagan city officials. But Garrison said it was more of an operational issue between the Vikings and nearby residents. The Vikings and its owners will have to decide what kind of neighbors they want to be, he said.
“The landscape has changed out there — that was undeveloped land for many years,” Garrison said, adding that no one ever expected it to stay that way forever.
And more development is coming. Eventually, the 160 acres surrounding the practice facility and stadium — the entire area is called Vikings Lakes — will be developed into offices, housing, restaurants, shopping and a hotel.
That won’t comfort Nancy Commerford, who lives about a block from the team complex. She said the light shines into her townhouse at night, forcing her to close the blinds.
“We used to live in a nice, quiet, dark little neighborhood,” Commerford said. “Now it’s all lit up, just like we’re a circus.”