And so it has begun.
The 2½-year mission to build a $1 billion new home for the Minnesota Vikings ceremonially kicked off Tuesday morning with a long-awaited groundbreaking outside the Metrodome.
Two longtime project boosters — Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak — were among the speakers at the under-the-tent event outside the doomed Dome.
Team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf also attended, along with executives for HKS Inc., the stadium architect, and Mortenson Construction, the stadium builder, and star running back Adrian Peterson.
“What a day,” Zygi Wilf said to the gathering. “It was always our intention to bring a championship and a stadium” to Minnesota, he said. “We are embarking on our way to both.”
Wilf said the new stadium will “provide a tremendous game-day experience. … The fan experience has driven” the design of the stadium from the start, Wilf said.
Mark Wilf followed his brother to the podium and said the team will soon have “a great shot” at hosting a Super Bowl in the Vikings’ new home.
Dayton stepped up and declared this “truly a historic day for the state of Minnesota.”
The governor said he feels a bit like Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, likening the challenges in getting the project off the ground to Sunday’s improbable victory over the Chicago Bears. “I can’t believe it’s over, and I can’t believe we won,” Dayton said, eliciting robust laughter from Frazier and others.
Dayton saluted the members of the Minneapolis City Council who, he said, put their political careers on the line and voted for the stadium.
“It’s easy to demagogue against a project like this. But demagoguery doesn’t put people to work,” Dayton said.
Rybak said the new stadium will be “woven into the urban fabric” of the city, from downtown to the riverfront to the University of Minnesota.
Referring to Vikings fans who had spent time at the State Capitol lobbying for the stadium financing bill, Rybak said: “Democracy sometimes includes painting your face [Vikings colors] and wearing horns.”
About 100 free tickets were available to fans hoping to witness the ceremonial first scoops of dirt on the southwest corner of the Dome’s back parking lot.
Construction crews will begin foundation work for the new stadium on the Dome’s back parking lot this month. The Dome roof will be deflated in mid-January, with demolition work to follow several weeks later. The Vikings game against the Detroit Lions on Dec. 29 is the Dome’s last event.
While the new stadium is going up, the Vikings will play the 2014 and 2015 seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, home of the University of Minnesota football team. The 65,000-seat stadium that will replace the Metrodome is expected to be completed by the 2016 NFL season.
Peterson stepped before Tuesday’s gathering, received a standing ovation and said he and his teammates are excited about the new stadium, but “one thing I’m not looking forward to is playing outside for two years.”
The 65,000-seat stadium that will replace the Metrodome is expected to be completed by the 2016 NFL season.