The Minnesota Vikings’ owners have signed a surprise purchase agreement for 185 acres in Eagan that once served as Northwest Airlines’ headquarters.

If all goes well with purchase negotiations, the team will build new practice and corporate facilities in Eagan and move from its outdated Winter Park home in Eden Prairie.

On Friday, team Vice President Lester Bagley would only go so far as to say the site is “intriguing” as a new home.

“The [current] Winter Park site is very challenging,” he said. “There’s not enough flexibility for what we want to do.”

The Northwest Airlines land initially went on the market in 2009 for $24.5 million, with the price gradually dropping over time. The Excelsior Group, an Eden Prairie-based developer, bought the land in June for $10.4 million. Bagley declined to say what the Vikings paid for the property.

The Vikings have been clear that they’re looking to move from their 12 acres just off of Interstate 494 in Eden Prairie because of a need for more outdoor playing fields, better weight rooms, media rooms, locker rooms and more office space.

The land in the purchase agreement is 6 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, just south of 494 and east of Dodd Road. When Delta Air Lines merged with Northwest, the airline’s headquarters was absorbed into Delta’s Atlanta home.

The team has been looking for 50 acres for a new facility and had been in early discussions for land along Hwy. 212 in Chanhassen. It also had been exploring options with Eden Prairie, so the latest news was an unexpected bolt to the east.

If the sale goes through, the Eagan land would keep the Vikings on one of the Twin Cities’ major east-west freeways while moving it closer to both downtowns and the airport. Real estate is the main business of the New Jersey-based Wilf family, owner of the Vikings, so ancillary development prospects on the Eagan site could also be alluring.

Vicki Stute, president of the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the Vikings are a state asset and would be welcomed. “We’re excited about this purchase; it will be great for the community,” she said.

Two office buildings on the site essentially have been mothballed since the airline left town, but Stute said the property is in a “prime location.” She said the community is eager to see what other developments the Wilfs might propose nearby.

Winter Park lacking

Winter Park opened 34 years ago, when Bud Grant was the team’s coach and Tommy Kramer the quarterback.

Until recently, the shortcomings of Winter Park were far down the list of the Vikings’ concerns as the team feverishly pursued a public subsidy for the new $1 billion stadium. With the stadium expected to be open within 11 months, Vikings owners and executives turned to considering the future of their headquarters.

The Vikings have been running the business out of three separate office buildings. The marketing staff is in downtown Minneapolis at 1010 Metrodome Square, across S. 5th Street from the new stadium construction site. The team also has office space at Winter Park and in a neighboring office building.

The team’s offices and practice facilities lag by NFL standards. Creature comforts aren’t insignificant for amenities for players whose bodies are their jobs. A reputation for subpar facilities can become an issue in contract negotiations with players.

The Twins upgraded significantly when they moved from the Metrodome to Target Field.

The team hasn’t commented on whether it might seek a subsidy for a new headquarters.

 

Staff Writer Kristen Leigh Painter contributed to this report.

Twitter: @rochelleolson