Poss, still hard-nosed, weighs in on stadium

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 3, 2011 - 4:55 PM

Thirty years ago, Don Poss was everywhere as the no-nonsense man in charge of building the Metrodome, the downtown Minneapolis home of the Minnesota Vikings. One headline in 1982 said simply: "Hard-Nosed Poss Rides High As Stadium Opens."

So how does Poss, who now winters in Phoenix, feel about all the criticism aimed at a place he helped build -- that the Metrodome is too old, the stairs are too steep, the concourses are too narrow and the bathrooms are too few?

Actually, he's OK with it. "It has become worn and near-obsolete," said the former executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Metrodome. But that's because the Vikings, in comparison, are now pushing a new stadium that "is a super-opulent football Taj Mahal" that, he said, is "overpriced."

The Metrodome -- built for $55 million, as Poss still takes pride in pointing out -- was a "very modest stadium which consumed very little public money."

Poss has not lost his touch for blunt-speaking, and saves much of his candor for the Vikings and their proposed $1.1 billion stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills.

The Vikings, he said, "have been allowed to co-opt the Legislature, governor and public by grabbing the initiative to dictate process, stadium design concept and cost, and the cost share that the public will contribute."

He blames the state's politicians and public for allowing the team to convince people that the Vikings' $425 million contribution is "generous."

Poss also is frustrated with what he calls the Vikings' implied threat to move without a new publicly funded stadium. "My generation, 30 years ago, would have told them, 'Don't let the door hit you' in the rear end," he said.

Poss laments what has happened to sports stadiums, and takes partial blame. After the Metrodome, Poss helped build a new stadium for the Miami Dolphins in the late 1980s. The Dolphins stadium, he said, was among the first to emphasize sky boxes and club seats to increase revenue and enhance the game for fans. That, he said, led to stadiums with jumbo scoreboards, sit-down restaurants overlooking the field and video games in the concourses.

Poss said he recently visited the Minnesota Twins' new ballpark, which he pronounced a "great stadium." But with so many fan amenities, he said, "half the people in the stadium aren't watching the game."

For those who were not there, Poss reminded Minnesotans that building a Vikings stadium may have been more politically dicey then than now. On the day the vote was taken to put the Metrodome in Minneapolis rather than Bloomington, Poss said, a man came into his office "threatening to bomb the place." Police evacuated the building.

Does Poss have any final advice as the Legislature considers a Vikings subsidy package?

Build the stadium somewhere in Minneapolis, he said, and "tell the Vikings what they're going to pay, not ask them what they're willing to pay."

Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673

The week ahead

Minnesota Senate will hold its second hearing on a proposed Vikings football stadium on Tuesday, focusing on financing options.

Tweet of the week

From @sheilakihne (conservative activist Sheila Kihne) on the state Republican Party's debt:  "Dear Santa, please bring the MNGOP a huge bag of money."

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