The Minnesota Vikings will pay the University of Minnesota up to $3 million a season to play at TCF Bank Stadium while their new stadium is being built.
The University of Minnesota’s governing board is expected to sign off Friday on a deal announced Thursday that requires the NFL team to pay $300,000 per game, cover gameday costs and fund upgrades to ready the college stadium for NFL play, such as a heated field.
The agreement was unanimously approved by a committee of the Board of Regents on Thursday. U President Eric Kaler said he was “delighted to be able to help” the Vikings. “I think we’ve reached a very fair agreement to both sides.”
The regents will also vote Friday on a related resolution that would allow beer and wine to be sold throughout the stadium during Vikings games. Hard liquor would be permitted in suites and club rooms.
The Vikings will be able to use the stadium only for Sunday games and one weeknight game per season, plus home playoff games, the new deal says. The team will pay $250,000 for each game played during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, plus a $50,000 share of concessions and sponsorships per game, for a total of $3 million a season “above all expenses,” said Mark Rotenberg, the U’s general counsel.
If the team needs to stay for another season, it’ll cost more — $262,000 per game for 2016 and $275,000 per game in 2017.
A pledge to be ‘good neighbor’
The Vikings also have agreed to contribute $90,000, plus $35,000 in in-kind services, to a neighborhood fund each season. During a news conference Thursday, Vikings officials said they might build a playground or plant trees.
“We promise to be good partners and good neighbors,” said Lester Bagley, vice president of stadium development for the Vikings.
The deal also sorts out competing soft drink contracts. The U’s agreement with Coca-Cola makes it the exclusive soft drink on campus, while the Vikings have a deal with Pepsi. The National Football League also has a deal with Gatorade, which is owned by Pepsi, to have “Gatorade-logoed coolers, cups and towels” on the sidelines of all NFL games.
During Vikings games, Gatorade products will be allowed on the sidelines and in one suite, the deal says. Print ads featuring Pepsi and Gatorade will be permitted in gameday programs. “But in all other respects, Coca-Cola products will be served,” Rotenberg said.
The regents will also vote Friday on another type of drink — booze. If approved, that resolution would allow beer and wine to be sold throughout the stadium. It notes that the U’s administration “shall approve all alcohol sales locations.”
The agreement outlines $3.5 million for capital improvements, to be paid for by the Vikings, such as “re-engineering concession stands.” But that number doesn’t include the cost of heated field turf, which is listed as “TBD.”
Talks continue over seating. TCF Bank has a capacity of about 53,000, compared to the Metrodome’s 64,000. Whether and how the Vikings might add bleachers to accommodate a few thousand more fans is “one of the decisions that will need to be made,” said Pam Wheelock, vice president of University Services.
Upgrades to the field will likely be made in June and July 2014, she said.
The Vikings have said that the 2013 season will be their last in the Metrodome, which will be razed in early 2014. Groundbreaking on the new stadium is planned for October. The team hopes to open the building in July 2016.
Working around U’s schedule
The agreement says that the Vikings must “make best efforts to work with the NFL to minimize conflicts with the university’s academic calendar, intercollegiate athletics events and other University events.” It also asks that the team avoid scheduling games on the same weekends as Gophers home football games.
On Thursday Regent Dean Johnson asked whether the stadium could host a Saturday night Gophers football game, then a Vikings game at noon the next day. “Is that even possible?” Johnson said.
“It is possible that that can actually work,” Wheelock replied.
The team has played at TCF Bank Stadium before, after a 2010 snowstorm collapsed the Metrodome’s inflatable roof. That “dry run” helped the two sides figure out how they might handle things such as parking, snow and concessions, said Kevin Warren, the Vikings’ vice president of legal affairs.
“If we had not had that, I really don’t know how we could have crafted an agreement that properly touches on all those points,” he said. “It would have been very difficult.”