Vikings push to add tailgating options in time for new stadium

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 26, 2013 - 8:11 AM

With some prime tailgating lots near the new stadium targeted for development, the NFL team is working to fill the void and preserve a gameday tradition.

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Vikings tailgaters set up camp in lots near the armory in downtown Minneapolis.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Tailgaters, take heart: The Minnesota Vikings have your back.

With concerns growing over a rapidly dwindling supply of prime tailgating spots around their new downtown Minneapolis stadium for the 10,000 or so gameday tailgaters, the team has asked city officials to consider expanding the area for pre- and postgame festivities.

The request, made at a meeting Thursday of the city’s Stadium Implementation Committee, comes in response to feedback from some disgruntled season-ticket holders over a $400 million office, retail and housing development near the stadium that will gobble up more than 800 premium tailgating spaces.

“It’s a hot-button issue with our fans,” said Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development.

Vikings officials surveyed nearly 22,000 single-game or season-ticket holders on the issue this spring. Nearly two-thirds of the roughly 3,000 fans who responded said it was “very important” to be able to pull out the coolers and the grills and continue the tailgating tradition at the new stadium.

More than half, however, said they wanted to be within walking distance of the stadium and preferred not to park and tailgate at lots farther away or use a shuttle service to get to and from the game.

Nearly three out of four ticket holders who responded said they would share or consider sharing tailgating space at a nearby park or plaza.

Based on the survey, the Vikings estimate that about 840 fans host weekly tailgating parties, with an average of 10 guests per vehicle or space. The total number of tailgaters may, however, be closer to 10,000, team officials said.

For many, Bagley said, “it’s about being in the vicinity of the stadium, to put down their beverage and walk to the game so they can pull into their seat when the game is about to tee off.”

Groundbreaking on the stadium, to be built on the Metrodome site, is scheduled for later this fall.

The team expects the building to be open in time for the 2016 NFL season.

Stadium construction will coincide with an ambitious plan by Ryan Cos. to redevelop five nearby blocks now owned by the Star Tribune for the office, retail and housing project, as well as a 9-acre public park.

Three of the blocks currently are prime tailgating lots, providing more than 800 parking spaces.

“The Ryan project is a huge benefit to the city, but it also puts some pressure on the tailgating experience,” Bagley said.

Chuck Lutz, Minneapolis’ deputy development director, said Thursday that he and Mayor R.T. Rybak met with the Vikings earlier this month to discuss ways to compensate for the loss of the tailgating spots and preserve the pre- and postgame tradition.

A second meeting is planned for next week.

Lutz said the city and the Vikings will explore the possibility of using other surface parking lots close to the Metrodome for tailgating. The team is looking to double the size of the current tailgating area, possibly extending it south to S. 10th Street and east to Interstate 35W.

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  • Tom Balk lets loose at a Vikings tailgate party.

  • Steve Loos, Ryan Wagner and Mike Felien (all sitting left to right), buddies from Brooklyn Park, share a few beers around the fire in a parking lot along Washington Ave. Sunday morning before a Vikings game.

  • Paul Thielman (left) shared a toast with friends as they tailgated.

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