Paper misled readers on Vikings' plans

  • Article by: LESTER BAGLEY
  • Updated: September 11, 2011 - 7:14 PM

Team does not and did not plan a convention center at Arden Hills site.

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The proposed Vikings stadium site in Arden Hills.

Photo: file, Minnesota Vikings

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Counterpoint

The Minnesota Vikings have a deep history and storied tradition that spans 51 years in the state of Minnesota. During that time, the Vikings and the Star Tribune have enjoyed a unique partnership.

The Star Tribune provides its readers -- our fans -- with a tremendous amount of news and information on the Vikings. In turn, the award-winning coverage of the team helps sell a substantial number of newspapers and drives significant traffic to the Star Tribune's website.

The Vikings organization has serious concerns with the paper's recent coverage of the team's quest for a new publicly owned stadium. While we recognize the editorial positions taken by the Star Tribune opposing the Arden Hills stadium site, we simply cannot let the story that ran on the front page Sept. 4 go unchallenged ("Prospect of a convention center shocks stadium watchers").

The stakes are too high -- hanging in the balance is the success and the future of the Minnesota Vikings.

Here is the problem: The Vikings were made aware late last week that a Star Tribune reporter was seeking comment on a map of the proposed Arden Hills site that included an area designating a "potential hotel/convention center."

While the reporter identified the map as property of the Vikings, this map was actually created by Ramsey County officials -- not the Vikings -- and distributed by the county at a meeting of the St. Paul Rotary.

When the Vikings were made aware of the reporter's inquiries, we informed her that the map was not created or distributed by the Vikings, and that the Vikings do not have -- nor has the team ever had -- any plans to develop a convention center as part of the Arden Hills development proposal.

Likewise, county officials contacted the reporter and made her aware that the map was not developed by the Vikings and that the county had made "a mistake" by distributing the document.

Unfortunately, the Star Tribune chose to run the story two days after the team and county corrected the record. This story led to a serious misrepresentation of the facts of the situation.

Here are our specific concerns:

1. The story implies that the Vikings have had plans to develop a convention center in Arden Hills. It says the Vikings have "backpedaled" from these plans and that the team "now says the convention center idea is dead."

A headline on one version of the Star Tribune story proclaimed, "Does Wilf stadium plan include a convention center?" Yet the newspaper knew this was false. Again, there have never been any plans by the Vikings for a convention center; the reporter was aware of this, yet the paper ran the story and implied the team had only recently scrapped those plans.

2. The reporter took the county's map to city leaders in St. Paul and Minneapolis and asked them to react to the supposed convention center plans. Understandably, those leaders raised serious concerns about a convention center that would compete against facilities in their cities. The questioning and the article unnecessarily stirred the pot after the paper was made aware that the entire premise was false.

3. The reporter made reference to the Wilfs' development plans near the stadium and used the phrase, "Wilf's ideas are so grand as to merit the nickname 'Zygi World,'" which is unflattering at best, but more important, is simply not true.

To be clear, the Vikings would envision some form of mixed-use development adjacent to the proposed stadium site, but future development is speculative and subject to economic and market conditions. This portrayal of some huge future development does a disservice to the project and especially to your readers.

We would hope that, going forward, the newspaper would pay close attention to the veracity of the details that are so important to the future of the Minnesota Vikings and the fans and readers who depend on accurate news coverage regarding the team.

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Lester Bagley is vice president of public affairs and stadium development for the Minnesota Vikings.

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