The light-rail stop across the street from the new home of the Minnesota Vikings, now known as Downtown East, will be called U.S. Bank Stadium Station, according to an agreement announced Monday.
In a deal struck with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the team, Metro Transit will receive $300,000 annually in stadium promotions, print and radio advertising and “direct marketing support” to encourage transit ridership to stadium events — but no cash up front.
The station serves as a key connection for the Blue and Green light-rail lines — last year alone, some 1.3 million connections were made there. It stands less than a block away from the $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which is 90 percent complete and slated to open this summer.
Beginning in March, signs, maps, audio announcements and pocket schedules will reflect the new name. Metro Transit hopes that 40 percent of fans, roughly 55,000 people, will take public transit to games.
Metropolitan Council guidelines call for transit station names to reflect local geography, such as a major cross street or landmark.
“On an annual basis, hundreds of thousands of Twin Cities metro-area residents and visitors pass through this station, which will now be linked to an obviously identifiable Minneapolis landmark,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said in a statement.
Naming rights for transit stations isn’t unheard of — it’s been done in Boston, Philadelphia, New York and other cities. The arrangements benefit cash-strapped transit agencies, but some transit advocates say the practice undermines the integrity of public transportation.
The light-rail stop at Target Field was named after the baseball stadium, which opened in time for the Minnesota Twins’ 2010 season. The Twins pay Metro Transit $170,000 a year for the naming rights, according to Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla.
Vikings President Mark Wilf said in a statement that the stadium is “reshaping this part of downtown Minneapolis. Knowing a large number of Vikings fans and all [other] stadium users will arrive via light rail, naming this U.S. Bank Stadium Station is both appropriate and practical.”
The Met Council, stadium authority and Vikings in November reached an agreement that calls for construction of a $9.65 million pedestrian bridge linking the stadium to the light-rail station. The walkway will extend from the stadium, stretch over the light-rail tracks and deposit pedestrians on a nearby public plaza.
U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest commercial bank in the United States, and the Vikings announced a 20-year partnership for the naming rights of the Vikings stadium last June. The firms didn’t reveal precise terms of the deal, but executives said it was valued at around $10 million a year.
In addition, medical technology giant Medtronic PLC’s name will emblazon a 3-acre plaza between the front door of the new stadium and public park nearby. Terms of that 10-year deal were not disclosed.