The Minnesota Vikings organization has withdrawn its application to rename Chicago Avenue after facing strong backlash from Minneapolis City Hall.
The team had applied to change the name to Vikings Way for the three blocks running in front of its new home field, U.S. Bank Stadium, but the city’s planning commission unanimously denied the application Monday.
“We were taken aback by the negative reaction at the city,” said Lester Bagley, vice president of the Vikings. “Frankly, I’m just not sure we have the stomach for the tenor that exists down there [at City Hall] on this particular matter.”
Bagley said the street name change was a part of the plan with Minneapolis for the past three years and had “never been controversial” until the past few days.
Commissioners opposing the change did not believe the request met city requirements for renaming streets, specifically a guideline to not name streets after businesses. They also raised concerns about wayfinding since Chicago Avenue is a major artery in Minneapolis.
But the Vikings pointed to the same stretch of road previously being named Kirby Puckett Place when the Twins played at the Metrodome.
“It was a very practical and simple request and, frankly, the application was identical to the Twins’,” he said, referring to a street currently named Twins Way near Target Field.
The Planning Commission said Twins Way is different because it is a less-traveled, short side street skirting the Interstate 394 on-ramp.
The application also faced strong pushback from a faction of the public disenchanted with the Vikings for receiving nearly $500 million in stadium funds from state and local government.
Bagley pointed to several donations given to public infrastructure projects, such as $3 million for the Downtown East Commons park near the stadium and $6 million to help Metro Transit build a pedestrian bridge from the light rail stop to the team’s plaza, as examples of the team’s investment in the area.
“We’re going to pay significant dollars toward the reconstruction of Chicago Avenue even though it’s a city street and we weren’t obligated to do that; we felt it was a part of this working arrangement we had with the city,” Bagley said.
The team had conversations with city staff and City Council President Barbara Johnson before withdrawing the application. Rather than seeking the council’s final say on the matter, Bagley said the team is moving on to focus on finishing the stadium in the next four months and planning its new practice facility project in Eagan.