The Minnesota Vikings and Wells Fargo filed another set of opposing motions in the photo-bombing lawsuit about signs on two buildings.
The team and the bank disagree on whether Wells Fargo can raise and illuminate logos on the two 17-story office towers adjacent to the new U.S. Bank Stadium. The positions of the Vikings and Wells Fargo remain unchanged, but the latest papers included some colorful flourishes.
“Instead of the sophisticated and well-integrated design the Vikings envisioned for the stadium and its surroundings, viewers will now see a landscape marred by Wells Fargo’s garish, opportunistic, illuminated and unlawful signs,” Vikings lawyers wrote in their motion filed late Monday.
Both sides filed motions late Monday opposing the other’s position. A hearing is scheduled for June 3 in federal court.
The football team has said the signs will photo bomb the image of their new, “iconic” stadium when its image is broadcast around the world. The Vikings want to protect the multimillions of income they received from Wells’ competitor, U.S. Bank, for the naming rights to the new $1.1 billion building.
The team filed the lawsuit last year, contending that Wells’ raised, illuminated signs violated a two-year-old agreement that required the signs to be merely painted flat on the rooftops. The signs Wells Fargo installed are raised 18 inches.
Wells Fargo counters that the signs weren’t specifically prohibited. The bank also argues that the Vikings can only claim the signs will cause “speculative” damage to the stadium image.
“The total absence of any non-speculative harm, let alone irreparable harm, continues to compel the rejection of the Vikings’ claims,” Wells Fargo lawyers wrote.
Wells has argued that the signs don’t stand out any more than flat signs.
The Legislature gave the Vikings authority to regulate aesthetic and technical design in the stadium area. The authority was in the bill that put taxpayers on the hook for about half the cost of the building that will open Aug. 3.
The Vikings dispute Wells Fargo’s assertion that the new signs are no more prominent than flat signs, but that’s also beside the point, the team’s lawyers said.
As part of the negotiation more than two years ago, the team could have prohibited all rooftop signs in the stadium district. Instead, as part of the deal, the Vikings allowed Wells Fargo to paint rooftop signs, the team’s motion said.
“If Wells Fargo had presented the (raised, illuminated signs) prior to the signage agreement, the Vikings would have refused to release Wells Fargo from the prohibition on rooftop signs – or even allow Downtown East to proceed,” the filing said. “Knowing this, Wells Fargo pulled a bait-and-switch to gain the Vikings’ approval and a released from the prohibition on rooftop signs.”
The filings also contained portions of transcribed depositions between Wells Fargo lawyers and Vikings vice presidents Kevin Warren and Lester Bagley.
The Wells Fargo lawyers repeatedly asked each to explain how they could be certain that raised, illuminated signs would be more prominent than flat ones. Warren said, “It’s no different why they illuminated the 35W bridge in honor of Prince. People want to – it brings more attention to it.”
Then there was this nugget. The Wells Fargo lawyer also asked Warren to explain the basis for the Vikings’ assertion that the image of the new building is “iconic.”
Warren said, “Well, if you polled individuals who had seen stadiums, who have lived in the Twin Cities, who live outside of the Twin Cities, that’s a word that many people are using. It’s unique. It’s new. It’s been awarded the (2018) Super Bowl. It’s been awarded the Final Four.”
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank will hear oral arguments at 9 a.m. on June 3 in his St. Paul courtroom.