The Minnesota Vikings have a new option for fans who want to start their game day with some imbibing outside U.S. Bank Stadium before the Vikings take the field.
The recently adjourned Legislature gave the team authority to sell alcohol during games and other team events in the Commons park, which opened in 2016 along with the stadium and functions as its front lawn when the Vikings are playing.
Team vice president Lester Bagley said there’s no game plan yet for selling alcohol in the park.
“The biggest issue is the lack of fan gathering spaces and disappearing tailgating opportunities — a time-honored tradition for the Vikings fans in the days of yore,” Bagley said.
Staffers for Gov. Tim Walz said he will sign the bill soon.
The legislation also permits vendors to sell alcohol in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden near the Walker Art Center and Boom Island Park upstream from downtown, with permission and permits from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Until now, alcohol sales were limited to two public events per month at city parks.
And the bill gives the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) authority to set drinking hours at bars and restaurants inside the secure areas at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, a change that MAC had been seeking.
Airport restaurants currently can sell alcohol between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. of the following day. But 6 a.m. often is too late for some travelers who like to get the vacation vibe going as soon as they arrive at the airport.
MAC spokesman Patrick Hogan said there’s no timeline yet for changing the hours, but that staffers will develop a recommendation for the board after the bill is signed. About 10% of MSP’s flights, or about 5,000 passengers, board before 6 a.m. daily, Hogan said.
The 4.2-acre Commons park itself has been something of a political football. The city was to operate the park until a legal challenge handed it to the Park Board to run.
Under an arrangement worked out while U.S. Bank Stadium was being built, the Vikings may operate the park on game days as well as a few other dates. The team has used it mostly as a gathering space before games, offering music and other activities.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) also has the right to operate the eastern portion of the park for 40 days annually. The authority has occasionally used the space for activities during major concerts and events.
Spokeswoman Lisa Niess said the MSFA is still learning about the new options presented by the legislation and has no immediate plans. The stadium has been shuttered and major events canceled throughout the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Regarding the other parks, Minneapolis park permits manager Shane Stenzel said the board wanted more flexibility with alcohol sales.
“It’s nothing that’s going to pop up tomorrow or this summer,” he said. “We’ve got the legislation and that just gives us an opportunity for the future when we start opening back up. ... We’re not looking at throwing parties. We’re not looking at adding concessions.”