Sid Hartman: Tony Dungy saw the boost from new stadiums

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 6, 2012 - 12:15 AM

"People don't want to be taxed to get the stadiums going. But both in Tampa and Indianapolis, it was so critical to having the teams stay and have success."

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The NCAA men's basketball Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in 2010. A new Vikings stadium could bring the Final Four back here, as the NCAA has said it won’t come to the Metrodome anymore.

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on the verge of moving to Baltimore in the 1990s, but lobbying by owner Malcolm Glazer got a new stadium built. The Indianapolis Colts, playing in their old dome, also were serious about moving if a new building wasn't constructed.

"Well I'll tell you, it was difficult in both [situations] because it's a big investment," former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy told me recently. "People don't want to be taxed to get the stadiums going. But both in Tampa and Indianapolis, it was so critical to having the teams stay and have success, what we did is find other things to do with the stadium, other ways that they could serve the community. I think that's what has to be done. But it's a struggle, but it's worth it when it finally gets done."

That certainly would be the case here if the Legislature could get the Vikings a stadium.

Dungy talked about how often Tampa's Raymond James Stadium and Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium were used by the community, going well beyond the NFL games.

"That's what happens. We started winning in Tampa," the former Gophers quarterback said. "We were able to have other events there, concerts and different things. Same thing in Indianapolis -- Final Fours and different events, big concerts, and having the [NFL] combine there. It brings more than just the 10 football dates a year, and that's what you have to keep in mind.

"It'd be huge, and obviously you want to keep the team. The teams can't survive without it. It's one of the things that goes along with professional football."

One of the newest stadiums is Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, a building that already has played host to a Super Bowl and will have the 2014 Final Four. It has had some twice as many events as budgeted for when they were planning for the stadium.

Then you have New Orleans, where the heavily renovated Superdome played host to this year's Final Four and will have the 2013 Super Bowl.

You have to give the Tampa politicians a lot of credit. In addition to the football stadium, they built what is now known as the St. Petersburg Times Forum to provide a home for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. The city of Tampa also took the Yankees spring training operation away from Fort Lauderdale by building Steinbrenner Field, one of the finest spring facilities in Florida.

Having visited with some of the NCAA basketball officials who staged two Final Fours here plus a number of earlier-round NCAA tournament events, they have said the Metrodome is not longer modern enough to stage any of their tournaments. But they will come back on a regular basis like they did for years should a new facility be built.

It might be a good move for Lester Bagley and the Vikings, battling for a new stadium, to have Dungy come explain to the Legislature how Indianapolis really became a big-league area once Lucas Oil opened in 2008.

Gophers with Vikings

Five former Gophers players are part of the 70 players at Vikings rookie minicamp this weekend: wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight, defensive end Anthony Jacobs, tight end Tiree Eure, tight end Nick Tow-Arnett and defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey. The five are trying out to get an invitation to training camp. An injury kept safety Kim Royston from accepting a spot at the minicamp.

In recent years, only one player has tried out at rookie minicamp and subsequently gone on to earn a spot on the Vikings. That lucky player is former Gophers cornerback Marcus Sherels, who tried out in 2010, ended up spending much of the 2010 season on the practice squad and then made the team last year, earning plenty of playing time.

"It's a big opportunity," Kirksey said. "... There's a lot of competition out there, but it's nothing that worries me."

Asked how tough it was to play in only 19 victories during his four years of college, Kirksey said: "I won't take anything away from my career there at the University of Minnesota. It taught me to keep fighting."

Kirksey is very high on Jerry Kill.

"I can't really tell you if they're going to win or not, but I think they've got what it takes to win. [Under] Coach Kill, I think they'll be fine.

"I hope I can come back and celebrate. I have a lot of family on that team, and Coach Kill, he's family too."

Catching up with the departed free agents

The three main free agents who left the Twins after last season are all starting to hit their stride.

Before going 0-for-4 Saturday against Johan Santana, Jason Kubel was hitting .354 over a 12-game stretch with three homers and eight RBI for Arizona. After losing twice in his first four games, Joe Nathan put together eight appearances without giving up an earned run, lowering his ERA to 3.09 with seven saves for Texas. And Michael Cuddyer continues to hit well for Colorado. He hit a grand slam Saturday night against Atlanta, putting his season totals at .284 with three homers and 17 RBI.

Jottings

• Rivals.com's rankings of the top 2014 high school basketball prospects rates Apple Valley's Tyus Jones fourth in the country. And Rashad Vaughn of Cooper ranks 26th.

• Longtime Eden Prairie baseball coach Mike Halloran, whose team won state championships in 2004 and 2010 and a had long successful record, has resigned effective as the end of this season so he can spend more time to watch his sons Danny, a senior on this year's Eagles team, and Matt who is a starting catcher for the Gophers. More Eden Prairie: Junior linebacker Jack Cottrell has accepted a scholarship to play for Boston College in 2013. And last but not least Ryan Grant, a member of the Gophers football team, graduated in December with a degree in biological sciences and is working on a master's degree in athletic administration. He will graduate with that degree next spring.

• Former Gophers players Curtis James of Edina, and Willie Schneider and Harry Pitera of Cretin-Derham Hall, are now with St. Thomas and will be playing in the Tommies spring football game on Saturday.

• Former outstanding Gophers wrestler Cole Konrad, now in mixed martial arts, will fight Eric Prindle at Bellator 30 in New Orleans on May 25, a fight delayed from last month because of an injury to Prindle's hand. ... University of Minnesota graduate Caleb Truax, a boxer, recently lost his first decision in 19 bouts to Jermain Taylor.

• Punting was one of the real weaknesses of the Gophers last year, and there is a good chance that Christian Eldred will enroll in school in time to compete this fall. Eldred, an Australian who recently flew more than 18 hours to Minneapolis, told Gopher Illustrated, "If everything gets figured out, I will absolutely come to Minnesota for the upcoming season."

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