Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, said Tuesday that if a new stadium is built on the site of the Metrodome the team probably would have to play three seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.
That sounds as if it would be less than ideal for the Vikings.
"Because we know now, as we had our game there against the Bears on Dec. 20, that that's not an NFL stadium," Bagley said. "It's a good college stadium, but TCF Bank doesn't really work for the Vikings long term. It might be a nice stop gap, but the loss of revenues have to be factored in. So while the infrastructure is all there at the Metrodome site, having to play at another location for two or three seasons is also a revenue issue that needs to be addressed."
The Vikings played the Bears at TCF Bank Stadium after the roof of the Metrodome collapsed in December, causing two games to be moved out of that building. Bagley said it's possible the Vikings might only have to play on campus for two seasons but he seemed to think three years was more realistic.
TCF Bank Stadium seats about 13,000 fewer fans than the Metrodome.
Bagley, meanwhile, spoke optimisticly Tuesday about the potential of a stadium being built in Arden Hills and made it clear that this is no bluff by the team.
"Ramsey County is a great site and there's a willing partner," he said. "We've made less progress frankly over the years on the west side of the river. ... There's a west-metro bias [from some] about where people would like to see a stadium. But there needs to be a partnership, a collaboration, along the lines of what's developing with Ramsey County. So it's not a ploy to try to leverage anybody. It's a viable site.
"The Wilfs have been aware of it for two years. We've looked at it. [Team president Mark Wilf has] been out there. We've hired technical support to look into it and now we're on a track to get those questions answered to figure out how much the cost premium might be and then how to account for those costs. So we're pleased with Ramsey County's willingness to make it move forward."
With a plan to put a new roof on the Metrodome, Bagley knows some will try to say that facility should continue to be the Vikings home.
"We support their decision [to replace the roof] but it's going to complicate the discussion at the Capitol because people will say, 'Well, there's a roof, and what's the issue?'" Bagley said. "Well the issue is it's not a long-term facility. The roof collapse underscores that, so we have to move forward at the Capitol to try to get a long-term solution resolved this year.
"In terms of when the stadium's ready, they're shooting for Aug. 1. We're trying to get the league to move back our preseason games. We're also in conversation with the University of Minnesota to talk about the possibility of having to play a game or two there just to be safe and to cover that base and to dual track this thing a little bit. But we're hopeful that the roof will be up, the building will be ready with an event or two in the building before our first home preseason game."
What the Vikings would like -- assuming a potential NFL lockout doesn't last into August -- would be for the team to play its first two preseason games on the road and the final two at home.
As for the possibility of a lockout, and the impact that could have on the stadium situation, it sounds as if discussions already have been had on that subject.
“It’s a fair question from legislators and the public because it’s a healthy game and we want to see it continue," Bagley said. "This issue, the CBA issue, will be resolved. It will get resolved and that discussion is kind of a short-term, we need to get that resolved. But we’re trying to solve a long-term, 30-year or next generation [issue]. We’re making significant progress.
"We can’t afford to set the stadium issue aside. We’ve been talking with legislators and the governor’s office about this. There’s been suggestions from those folks, legislators and the governor, that there will be something in the bill that until the CBA is resolved we’re not going to pull the trigger on stadium construction. I think they’re sorting that issue out right now.”
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