The Minnesota Vikings photo-bombing complaint against Wells Fargo has been moved to federal court, and no hearing on the lawsuit has yet been scheduled.
The Vikings filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court last week accusing the bank of violating an agreement by installing mounted, lighted signs atop its new office towers adjacent to the team’s new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis’ Downtown East district.
Wells Fargo requested that the suit be moved to federal court, which is a routine and frequent procedural maneuver by defendants in lawsuits.
But the bank has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, so it remains unclear why it believes the signs pass muster under the agreement.
The Vikings say Wells Fargo agreed in 2014 that it wouldn’t mount lighted rooftop signs on the new towers. Wells Fargo officials have said they believe their signs are legal.
“We are satisfied with the signage package that was approved for our $300 million community investment initiative for our new campus in the historic Downtown East neighborhood,” bank officials said in a statement last week.
The Vikings had requested an expedited hearing on their complaint, and arguments were set for Wednesday in front of Hennepin County District Judge James Moore.
Now that the case is going to U.S. District Court, it’s unclear when arguments might occur.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank after federal judges Michael Davis and Richard Kyle recused themselves for unstated reasons.
The Vikings are concerned that conspicuous Wells Fargo signs could diminish the prominence of U.S. Bank’s name on the new $1.1 billion stadium.
U.S. Bank has paid undisclosed millions to the Vikings for the right to have its name on the stadium for at least the next 20 years.
As is the case with other arenas around the world, the naming rights are believed to have significant advertising value. The U.S. Bank logo and name will be broadcast during events and games, including the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
The war over signs near a new stadium isn’t new to this market. In 2010, the Minnesota Timberwolves won the right to put signs on Target Center’s massive north side on 2nd Avenue. The ad space on that wall can be seen by thousands of Twins fans from Target Field.
In the lawsuit filed last week, the Vikings accused Wells Fargo of attempting to “permanently ‘photo bomb’ the image of the iconic U.S. Bank Stadium.”
As part of the financial deal to build the new stadium, the Vikings get the proceeds from the naming rights. Taxpayers are paying $498 million toward the building, with the team paying the rest.