Hartman: Vikings, eyeing expansion, buy building near Winter Park

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 18, 2013 - 12:04 PM

The site, purchased from the Twins owners, is expected to be used for a new or expanded training base.

The Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, has bought a building from the Pohlads, owners of the Twins. The building is located at 7905 Golden Triangle Drive and is next to Winter Park, the Vikings’ training facility in Eden Prairie.

The Vikings paid $10 million for the building, which could be torn down and used for a new or expanded training site.

According to Vikings vice president Lester Bagley, the Vikings presently don’t have any plans for the building, but Bagley added: “You don’t have to be a real estate expert to read between the hash marks and see that the team is setting up for a possible future expansion of Winter Park.”

The Vikings have been based in Winter Park since 1981. The Wilfs have invested several million dollars into the facility since they bought the team in 2005, but it still lacks some amenities found at other NFL team headquarters and training facilities.

Meanwhile, the Wilfs have to be upset over what is going on in the Legislature regarding the financing of the new Vikings stadium.

They made a deal and agreed to contribute $477 million to the $975 million cost of building the stadium. But now there is a lot of talk of changing the way the stadium is financed, different from the original bill, because revenue from electronic gambling devices is not reaching the figures the state estimated.

One thing I know for sure. If something was passed that would eliminate the building of the stadium, Los Angeles would have a team overnight.

Involved in community

On Monday, even though the Twins had a game that night, pitcher Scott Diamond and first baseman Justin Morneau were involved in a Twins community service effort with the Starkey Hearing Foundation in which 20 school-age children from Fairbault, Minn., got free hearing aids from Starkey owner Bill Austin.

Austin also provided several toys to the youngsters. The Delta Zeta Sorority, working with the Starkey/Build-A-Bear Project, also helped by presenting the kids with stuffed bears with hearing aid attachments.

You have to tip your hat to Morneau and Diamond, who spent some two hours signing autographs, answering baseball questions and making the occasion comfortable for the youngsters. Both players also committed to go with Austin on one of his four international missions he makes every year to give hearing aids to poor people around the world who can’t hear.

First recruit for Pitino

Daquein McNeil, a 6-3, 185-pound guard from Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, Vt., is the first recruit to join new Gophers head basketball coach Richard Pitino.

According to various Internet services, Pitino recruited McNeil while at Florida International and McNeil asked for his release so he could join Pitino at Minnesota.

McNeil started 19 of 25 games and averaged 12.5 points per game.

When McNeil signed with Pitino at FIU, Vermont Academy coach Jesse Bopp told the Baltimore Sun: “We feel it’s going to be a very seamless transition [for McNeil with] the team and style of play. The offense and defenses are very similar. … Their style of play is pretty much a hectic pace, creating offense and getting up and down.”

Also on the recruiting front, guard Alvin Ellis from Chicago De La Salle, who was released from his Gophers scholarship last week, told Chicago Hoops on Wednesday that he has received a scholarship offer from Tom Izzo at Michigan State. Izzo also recently signed Ellis’ former high school teammate Gavin Schilling.

Williams OK sharing

Kevin Williams, the Vikings defensive tackle who just had his contract restructured for 2013, found no fault last season in alternating with another defensive tackle, unlike teammate and defensive end Jared Allen, who wanted to be on the field for every defensive play.

“Alternating, oh, it took a minute to get used to, but it helps you stay fresh during the game. It will help in the long run, being older,” Williams said.

Talking about how having younger players helped them turn around the team’s 3-13 record in 2011 to 10-6 and into the playoffs in 2012, Williams said: “We’re not as heavily laden with older guys and experience. We have a lot of young guys we counted on this year and they’ve played well for us.”

Williams, 32, said he believed he had a good season and definitely wanted to stay here. He was originally going to be paid $7.5 million in 2013 but it wasn’t guaranteed. Now he will get paid $4.9 million and it will be guaranteed, with a $100,000 workout bonus.

Jottings

• The Vikings report for their organized team activities Monday and while it’s not mandatory, coach Leslie Frazier is hoping everybody shows up. It will be interesting to see which players don’t. In the past some key players, such as center Matt Birk and wide receiver Percy Harvin, haven’t attended.

•  Former Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith hasn’t hired any of his former Gophers coaches to work with him at his new position at Texas Tech, but Smith is set to hire TCU assistant Alvin “Pooh” Williams, who played for Smith at Tulsa in the early 1990s. Smith did hire Steve Goodson, who was special assistant to the coach at Minnesota. The Gophers wanted to keep Woodson on Pitino’s staff, but Goodson chose to stay with Smith.

• Former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe pulled out of the Portsmouth Invitational tournament but continues to train in Atlanta as he gets ready for the NBA draft. Most analysts have Mbakwe as a potential second-round pick, along with teammate Rodney Williams. Chad Ford, writing on ESPN.com, said, “Mbakwe and Williams both look like pros. Mbakwe will never be a star, but his toughness should get him a spot somewhere in the league.”

• The Twins’ four top prospects are Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia and Eddie Rosario, and they are all dominating in the minor leagues. At high Class A Fort Myers, Sano is hitting .413 with four home runs and 12 RBI and Rosario is hitting .388 with one home run and six RBI. At low Class A Cedar Rapids, Buxton is hitting .474 with two home runs and nine RBI. And Arcia, who is back up with the Twins for a second time in a week, was hitting .394 with three home runs and eight RBI for Class AAA Rochester.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM 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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