The new Minnesota Vikings complex in Eagan looms over rolling hills and wetlands in northern Dakota County, transforming what was once a largely blank canvas into a sports mecca.
Soon the team’s Twin Cities Orthopedic Performance Center will be surrounded by a new development called Viking Lakes, which likely will include housing, retail, offices and a hotel.
But the boom is generating mixed feelings among locals. Residents of some neighboring cities, Mendota Heights and Sunfish Lake among them, aren’t happy about the facility’s bright lights and the road congestion they worry will accompany training camp this summer and high school games at the stadium this fall.
“We know full well it’s going to be a significant mess,” said Ultan Duggan, Mendota Heights City Council member, about the anticipated traffic. “We’ve made our points with the people in Eagan and the Vikings and they continue to do the things they’re doing.”
Drivers made an estimated 22,000 daily trips to and from the area in 2010; by 2030, that number is projected to reach 140,000 daily trips. Officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Dakota County anticipate that development in the area will require a new Interstate 494 interchange at Argenta Trail, and the county recently put monitoring traffic impacts on its list of priorities.
Some residents also complain they didn’t have much say in the Vikings project. But team officials counter that they’ve worked with local communities every step of the way. Lester Bagley, the team’s executive vice president, said that other cities would love to boast of having the team’s “iconic brand.”
“We are bringing a new level of energy to this community,” Bagley said. “We’re bringing economic impact. We’re bringing name recognition.”
Many eagerly await the perks of the Vikings complex, which includes the team’s headquarters, practice facility and a 6,500-seat stadium. They expect it will draw jobs and businesses, and bring Eagan the kind of national attention that comes with hosting an NFL team’s headquarters.
“I have neighbors coming up to me and saying, ‘Tom, we are so grateful that the Vikings are coming to Eagan. Look at what it is doing for our property values,’ ” said Dakota County Commissioner Tom Egan.
A variety of concerns
Officials caution that it’s hard if not impossible to separate the impact of the Vikings’ development from that of the larger area. The Performance Center, situated on part of the 200 acres purchased in 2016 by Vikings’ owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, is just one piece of a total $428 million in recent development in Eagan. City documents put the Vikings’ portion at $102 million, though team officials won’t confirm that.
And there’s more development to come. An area of 4,000 acres of northeast Eagan and northwest Inver Grove Heights, the largest undeveloped parcel adjacent to I-494, is prime for building.
Sunfish Lake Mayor Richard Williams worries about congestion on roads north and east of the Vikings complex, where his community of 550 is located. Sunfish Lake has no city water system and contracts with Mendota Heights for fire services, so fire trucks may have trouble if arteries such as Dodd Road and Robert Street are clogged with traffic.
Duggan is concerned about congestion at Dodd Road and Hwy. 110, along with its feeder road, near Mendota Heights’ popular Village commercial hub. A traffic study showed that intersection already carries more cars than it can handle.
Some Mendota Heights residents have been grumbling for weeks about the glowing white lights on the Performance Center’s north side, shining brightly into city neighborhoods from across I-494. The Vikings agreed to kill the lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., rather than leave them on all night as planned. Duggan said that won’t completely solve the problem: “The view has changed forever for those people.”
Bagley said team officials met with nearby residents early in the process and were responsive. After Mendota Heights residents expressed concern about noisy games, he said, the team moved the stadium’s location to the south side of the complex and sunk it into the ground.
“There’s some people that think neighboring cities have veto power over adjacent things, which we don’t have,” said Mark McNeill, Mendota Heights’ city administrator.
Egan, a former Eagan mayor who represents Eagan and Mendota Heights on the County Board, said he’s heard constituent concerns but thinks some problems are unlikely to materialize. “Some of this is a little bit less than real in terms of ... actual impact,” he said.
‘A global attraction’
Dave Osberg, Eagan city administrator, said that Eagan had become one of 32 cities in the country to host an NFL team. “This investment spurs more investment,” he said.
The facility will draw visitors ranging from sports fans to families, said Shayna Keanaaina of Eagan’s visitor bureau. “We’re hoping it becomes just a global attraction,” she said.
Mankato for decades hosted the Vikings’ summer training camp at the Minnesota State University campus. The team drew 60,000 to 80,000 visitors to the area along with a palpable energy, said Anna Thill of Visit Mankato, the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau. “It put us on the map,” she said.
Until last winter, Eden Prairie was home to Winter Park, the Vikings’ headquarters. Many players and coaches moved there to be near the facility, said David Lindahl, the city’s economic development manager, and he predicted the same will happen in Eagan and Inver Grove Heights.
Eagan officials estimate that the city will collect an additional $128,000 in tax revenue from the Performance Center alone. Dakota County and the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan school district also will see more tax revenue. Property values will rise not just in Eagan but in neighboring communities like Mendota Heights, Egan said.
“It will be a great new employer, and it will provide us with services that we don’t have,” he said.
The team plans to be “inclusive to the community,” Bagley said, such as with the local high school football games planned for the Vikings’ practice field. He said that the property would have been developed regardless of the Vikings, and he wondered whether residents would have balked at development there no matter what it was.
“People love to love us,” Bagley said, “and sometimes love to criticize us.”