As the new football stadium rises from the pit where the Metrodome once stood, it recalls memories from a decade ago when Minnesotans first learned that Zygi Wilf, a New Jersey developer, was about to buy the Minnesota Vikings.
The Star Tribune sent me to Jersey to dig into his background and interview him. We found his offices, but he wasn’t ready to talk. A receptionist shooed me away.
After a couple more days of me turning up unannounced with a hint these visits might go on indefinitely, Wilf relented and the Star Tribune scored the first interview with the man. He turned out to be quite friendly.
Would he move the Vikings?
“Never,” he said. He also promised to win a Super Bowl. Still waiting on that one.
Some people work overtime to dodge the media, and who can blame them? In November 1981, four months before the Metrodome opened, the Teflon roof collapsed in a snowstorm.
The deflated Dome roof was a bit of an embarrassment. Don Poss, the affable executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission which managed the Dome, wasn’t talking. The commission’s offices were in a downtown office building. I sat down in his outer office and waited, knowing eventually he would have to come out. There was no back door. He finally emerged — about six hours later — and did a lengthy interview.
But he also made sure that his new commission office at the Dome had a back door.
One of my favorite Dome stories after Poss left came from a tip that stadium superintendent Dick Ericson was turning up the electric fans behind home plate to help the Twins hit home runs in late innings. Bill Lester, the Sports Facilities commission executive director and a very nice guy, let the newspaper run tests to see if this was possible, even though he thought the story was total nonsense. The tests proved inconclusive.
Hearkening back to the bumbling police detective played by comedian Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies, Lester, told me I was “the Inspector Clouseau of journalism.”