Metrodome set to replace turf

New turf and remodeled offices are coming, but a new stadium? A lobbyist and a team spokesman had differing views.

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Minneapolis, MN., Tueaday, 1/16/2004. Jim O'Donnell, member of the Midwest Field Turf and Quest Field Turf Crew pulled the first of 120,000 square foot of "Field Turf" into position at the Metrodome. The new field turf will take ten to fourteen days to install at the dome.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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The Vikings and their landlords might disagree on the team's chances of getting a new stadium plan through the Legislature this year, but one thing's for sure -- the Metrodome will be more playable in the meantime.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which runs the Metrodome, on Thursday approved a $1.3 million joint project with the Vikings to replace its six-year-old artificial FieldTurf and remake the Minnesota Twins' old ticket office into a Vikings ticket office and hospitality suite.

The Vikings asked the commission to replace the turf, which was installed in March 2004 and guaranteed for eight years, because they believe it may be unsafe. Team officials found the surface notably different in the sliding areas cut out for baseball, and the field feels firmer in the diamond area than across the playing surface generally.

The Vikings also asked the commission to remodel the old Twins' offices, a project that will cost about $700,000. Both projects are scheduled to be finished by August.

Still being negotiated is the extent to which the Vikings would repay the commission for both projects should they leave the Metrodome after its lease expires in 2011.

There was less of a meeting of the minds on the bigger issue dogging the commission and the Vikings: whether the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty can agree this year on a publicly financed plan to build a multi-use stadium.

Lobbyist Bill McGrann told commissioners at Thursday's meeting that a Vikings bill won't go forward at least until after the Easter/Passover break. Even then, he said, that would leave little time for any serious effort to pass a bill before the Legislature's scheduled adjournment on May 17.

Given Pawlenty's opposition to taxes, McGrann said there will be little for legislators to do to fix the budget besides making more cuts. He said legislative resentment over Pawlenty's handling of the bonding bill, and state conventions for both major parties in late April, provide more reasons to cut the session short.

"The chances are getting slimmer by the day that there will be any sort of consideration of the Vikings/stadium/commission issue," he said.

Lester Bagley, who directs the Vikings' stadium development efforts and attended Thursday's meeting, said afterward that he disagreed. "We've been told by all that there will be a discussion this session and that efforts would be made to move it forward to the best of their ability ... to put it in a position to be resolved," Bagley said.

Team officials have had "excellent discussions behind the scenes" with state leaders, including Pawlenty, Bagley said. "The governor has stepped up and is engaged with his staff on a solution."

The Vikings must play two seasons in the Metrodome under its lease, which expires at the end of the 2011 season. Bagley said the team won't consider extending its lease without a stadium deal.

Among the funding solutions being discussed, he said: using taxes generated by the Vikings and economic activity around the stadium, and creating a Vikings-branded state lottery.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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