Hartman: Mondale is in line for top stadium job

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2012 - 11:58 PM

 After helping lead the drive in the Legislature, he likely will have a new role as the project becomes reality.

Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf will be in the Twin Cities when the new stadium commission meets for the first time Friday, and if you want my prediction, the announcement will be made that Ted Mondale, current chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), will have a top position in helping the stadium's new governing body.

Mondale would continue the great job he did in getting the stadium bill passed by the Legislature.

The new Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority will oversee the new stadium's development and take over the job of running the Metrodome from the MSFC, which will be phased out over the summer. Michele Kelm-Helgen, an aide to Gov. Mark Dayton, was appointed chairwoman of the new panel earlier this month.

Not only will the Wilf family create new jobs with the stadium, they likely will spend a lot of money remodeling Winter Park in Eden Prairie, or building a new practice facility and team headquarters. Lester Bagley, team vice president, said the current site is no longer adequate and some moves will have to be made. They looked at possible new locations Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Mark Wilf brought good news to high school and college baseball teams when he reported that as a part of the bill, the new stadium has to be equipped for baseball.

"That's part of the requirement is that it's going to have to allow for high school baseball and things of that sort," he said.

I also got the impression from Wilf that there are not plans for a lot of other buildings, such as hotels, near the stadium site -- at least for now.

"There's a lot of work ahead of us and we're meeting, we're looking forward to it," said Wilf, who was here to watch the Vikings practice.

He added: "We have a lot of work ahead of us but we're still very excited about the great [stadium] we're going to put together. It's still -- we're in the very early stages of even setting up the planning -- so I really can't speak to what kind of features we'll have. But we're going to try, as I've always said, to make it a first-class building all the way."

There is no doubt that the Wilfs will not be satisfied with anything but a stadium that is the equal of any of the stellar ones in the NFL. That is how they have approached everything they have done since buying the Vikings.

"We're still shooting to open in 2016, that's the goal," Wilf said. And talk about the Wilfs doing good things: Once they get through playing two seasons (or fewer) at TCF Stadium, the Gophers are going to have a much more modern place to play with the improvements the Vikings will make.

As for the team, there is no doubt in Wilf's mind that the Vikings will be a lot better.

"We're excited. [We have] a lot of good, young talent," Wilf said. "I know the coaches are feeling good. We're going to be a good ballclub. I think having this offseason to allow the team to really come together is going to be a big plus for us versus last year."

Wilf has a lot of confidence in Leslie Frazier coaching the team to a winning season.

"I like our coach, I like our team. It's coming together," Wilf said. "I think the fans can't wait for that first game against Jacksonville and move forward and really be a solid football team this year."

Meanwhile, Steve LaCroix, the team's head of marketing, said that some 80 percent of season tickets have been renewed.

Plans for U facilities

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said that plans are to work on building new facilities for non-revenue sports. The track fieldhouse might have to be replaced because a road might be built through it. The outdoor track stadium also needs a lot of work, which is why the Big Ten championship track meet that had been scheduled at the U this year was postponed until 2015. And then you have the basketball practice facility on the drawing board.

Jottings

• Gophers baseball coach John Anderson said two big contributors to his program recently died -- Dave Weiner, who donated more than $100,000 for the new Siebert Field, and Dark Star, who Anderson said sent a $500 check almost every year to help the baseball program.

• Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said that lineman Ben Lauer, who played at Wayzata, "is going to be a tremendous player for us here at the U. He's a late developer, he's only 17. He was a late offer but I think one of our best offers." Originally, Lauer was not going be on scholarship this season.

• The Denver Post reported last Friday that former Gopher Adam Weber has been the No. 2 quarterback behind Peyton Manning during minicamp for the Broncos. Denver signed Caleb Hanie and picked Brock Osweiler in this year's draft, and many believed that Weber might fall on the depth chart, but so far he hasn't. Weber said he is trying to just focus on his play: "A long time ago, I made a decision that I'm not going to worry about things I can't control," Weber said. "I don't read too much into it. As long as I get an opportunity to take a snap, I've got a chance."

• Defenseman Brady Skjei, a Gophers recruit, is projected by most pundits to go late in the first round in this week's NHL draft. Zach Stepan, a center from Hastings who plays for Shattuck-St. Mary's, is projected to go in the second round. ... AJ Michaelson of Apple Valley, Jake Bischoff of Grand Rapids, Justin Kloos of Lakeville South, and Edina's Lou Nanne are other Gophers recruits who should get drafted this weekend.

• Apple Valley point guard Tyus Jones was named to the 2012 USA Men's U-17 basketball team Wednesday. They will play in the FIBA U17 World Championship, which run June 29 through July 8 in Kunas, Lithuania.

• Three Gophers track athletes, including Hassan Mead, who was fourth in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA championships, will run at the Olympic Trials on Friday in Eugene, Ore. Mead will run the 5,000 and 10,000. The other two are Dave Pachuta, who posted a time of 1 minute, 46.5 seconds in the 800 meters, and Harun Abda of Fridley. Originally from Ethiopia, Abda set an American collegiate record in the 600 meters (1:15.89) during the Big Ten indoor meet.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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