The Vikings bought 185 acres of land in Eagan on Tuesday, laying a path to move the team's home base from Winter Park in Eden Prairie.
Team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf announced the closing on the land, but stopped short of saying the move is a done deal.
In a news release, Zygi Wilf said the site "offers many positive attributes, including space and flexibility, proximity to downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as to the airport, and an opportunity to transform a vacant piece of property for the benefit of the community and the region."
But Mark Wilf, team president, was more cautious in his statement: "While completing this purchase is the next step in the potential relocation of the team's headquarters and training facility, several steps remain before a conclusion is reached."
In August, the owners publicly announced that they were in talks to buy the land with an eye toward moving the team's practice facility, consolidating three office spaces and updating all facilities. In October, the Eagan City Council unanimously endorsed the broad outlines of a project.
In comments to the council before the vote, Vikings executives outlined a multiphased plan for a suburban town center with housing, a hotel, retail, restaurants, office space, team practice facilities and a stadium to seat up to 10,000 that could be used for high school games.
Since the council's vote of support in October, the Vikings and city staff have been in private discussions about the possible move and the development. The status of those talks isn't public, but Council Member Cyndee Fields said elected officials get frequent updates from staff and she's heard of no potential snags.
"I would say we're very optimistic and quite excited," she said.
Fields said that around town, she hears from residents excited to have the Vikings as neighbors and she's heard no word of hitches in the plan. While city staff has been negotiating with the Vikings, Fields said she has not heard any discussion about subsidies or tax breaks for the team and doesn't think Eagan has any to offer.
The NFL team has made clear it needs a better training facility than Winter Park, which opened in 1981 and — at 12 acres — can no longer accommodate the team's needs.
If the Vikings build in Eagan, they would use about 40 acres of the land for the team, including the stadium. The team hasn't commented on whether training camps would move to Eagan from Mankato.
Both the current team home and the new land are located on Interstate 494. The Eagan purchase came as a surprise when it was announced because the team's owners, who are New Jersey-based real estate developers, reportedly had been — and may still be — looking to purchase land farther west of Winter Park.
If Eagan and the team reach agreement, the Vikings could break ground as early as this year and move within the next two years.
Two mothballed buildings from the Northwest Airlines and, later, Delta Air Lines headquarters remain on the land. Last fall, the Vikings were uncertain what they would do with the buildings.
The sale price of the land isn't yet public, but the land initially went on the market in 2009 for $24.5 million, with the price dropping over time. The Excelsior Group, an Eden Prairie developer, bought the land in June for $10.4 million.
The Vikings also are looking to purchase an adjacent 9-acre piece of land, bringing the development total to 194 acres.