The Minnesota Vikings are considering a move to the south and west.
A team official says the Vikings have outgrown their headquarters at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, which opened 34 years ago, when Bud Grant was the team’s coach and Tommy Kramer the quarterback. “We’re currently evaluating the long-term viability of Winter Park as a practice facility and team headquarters,” Vikings’ vice president Lester Bagley said Friday.
He declined to discuss the team’s options, but it’s well-known that the organization has outgrown its home and now runs its business out of three separate office buildings. The marketing staff is in downtown Minneapolis at 1010 Metrodome Square, across S. 5th Street from the new stadium construction site. The team also has office space at Winter Park and in a neighboring office building.
For most of the past decade, the shortcomings of Winter Park were far down the list of the Vikings’ concerns as the team feverishly pursued a public subsidy for the new $1 billion stadium. With that project set to open on the old Metrodome site in a little more than a year, Vikings owners and executives can consider the future of their headquarters.
It’s unclear what sort of timeline the team has set for a decision, but one developer said the Vikings have spoken to him about land to the southwest on Hwy. 212 in Chanhassen, less than 10 minutes from Winter Park. The upscale west-metro suburb has been growing steadily and is ripe for more amenities, including shopping and theaters. Already at home in the Carver County city are Prince and his Paisley Park Studios, as well as the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Scott Carlston is developing a mixed-use residential, retail and office-space project called The Quadrant in Chanhassen. He has land to spare.
“I have spoken with the Vikings about it, but nobody’s committed to anything,” Carlston said. “It would be an easy move, because it’s just six-seven minutes down the road.”
Carlston said the site would have more than enough acreage to accommodate the team’s needs. The location would be convenient, because many Vikings players and staff members already live in the area.
Big guys, little chairs
In addition to having executive offices scattered downtown and in the suburbs, the team’s offices and practice facilities lag by NFL standards.
The coaches’ offices are a warren of squat, claustrophobic cubbies with little space for much more than a desk.
Winter Park also has a dearth of meeting places for executives and players.
When the players, some of whom exceed 300 pounds, meet to break down game film and plans, they sit on the same utilitarian metal office chairs used by reporters in a curtained-off corner of the indoor practice field, which resembles a pole barn. The team has no auditorium for meetings in a league where theater seating and high-tech displays are now the norm.
Creature comforts aren’t insignificant for players who spend several hours a day working on their bodies and mentally preparing for games. A reputation for subpar facilities can become an issue in contract negotiations with players.
The Minnesota Twins had similar quality concerns about their Metrodome clubhouse and practice facilities before moving to Target Field.
The two outdoor and one indoor practice fields at Winter Park leave the Vikings at least a half a field short of the standard — especially at this time of year, when 90 players are running drills, trying to make the squad.
Since buying the team a decade ago, Zygi and Mark Wilf have put several million dollars into piecemeal upgrades such as locker room improvements and a television studio, but the time has come, apparently, for a bigger move.
Bagley wouldn’t comment on whether the team might seek a subsidy for a new headquarters, but that would seem highly unlikely, given the pricey, high-profile project in downtown Minneapolis.
Mayor ‘welcomes’ talks
As for his project, Carlston has made a preliminary presentation to the Chanhassen City Council. Site assessments, traffic studies and environmental reviews are on hold, pending further details from Carlston.
Chanhassen Mayor Denny Laufenburger said Friday that he would like to see a detailed proposal for site use, including tenants “within a month or so.”
Laufenburger said he hasn’t spoken to Vikings officials, but personally knows many team employees whose children attend and play sports at Chanhassen High School. For the past several years, the mayor has been an announcer at many of those sports events, including football and girls’ basketball games, softball and track meets.
“Any time quality organizations like the Vikings or businesses, restaurants and industry want to locate in Chanhassen, that’s a good thing,” Laufenburger said, adding that he would “welcome” discussions with the team.