If Vikings fans want to know how close they could have been to losing their NFL franchise, consider the fates of the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers. The Rams will be playing in Los Angeles this season and the Chargers have the option to move there in 2017.

There’s no reason to doubt that if the Legislature and the Vikings hadn’t struck a deal in May of 2013 to build U.S. Bank Stadium that the Vikings easily could have moved to Los Angeles. Gov. Mark Dayton was told so by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in early 2013.

Mark Wilf, Vikings owner and president, was asked if the threat to move was real.

“We worked very hard to get the stadium,” he said. “I know there was a lot of back and forth politically, and we’re very grateful to the state and the city that we were able to work out a deal and we were able to build this great facility and make sure the Vikings are a part of this community for generations to come. We’re very proud of that.”

Excitement builds

With the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new stadium set to take place next month, the bulk of the work is done. The budget sits at approximately $1.061 billion, and more than half of that money ($551 million) has come from the Vikings.

Wilf said that the ownership and the team wanted to make sure that the stadium met their expectations. Wilf was asked if some of the extra financial contributions the ownership group made have been worth it now that they’re seeing the finished project.

“Yeah, we did everything we could to make sure that everything that was planned and designed to make it a first-class facility and the best facility in the NFL were going to happen,” he said. “We made sure it happened, and we’re really pleased with the building.”

U.S. Bank Stadium will be the fourth-most expensive stadium in operation this season.

So what does Wilf see as the unique aspect of the new stadium?

“I think the ETFE roof, the open outdoor-type feeling even though it’s an indoor stadium,” he said. “I think when fans come in and see the light and the energy in that building, it’s unique. It’s something that I think will give it a great game day experience.”

Stadium isn’t the end

Wilf said that while the stadium was one of the major goals of his family when they bought the Vikings, their No. 1 goal is still a Super Bowl championship, and he thinks the stadium can help with that goal.

“A great home-field advantage certainly helps the team, but ultimately we need great players and great coaches and a great football staff,” he said. “I think we’re very proud of our football team, and we love the job Coach [Mike] Zimmer and [General Manager] Rick Spielman are doing, bringing the kind of players in here that can bring us a winner.”

Will the new stadium sell out each game?

“I’m hopeful we will,” Wilf said. “We think we have the greatest fans, and we’re going to hopefully sell it out and fill it with Vikings fans that are going to be loud and create a great energy for a home-field advantage. I can’t wait to get in there and get the season started.

“… As great as the stadium is, and that was one of our big goals, we’re still about winning championships and that’s our big goal.”

Tougher schedule

Maybe Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino took the advice of former great basketball coach Bobby Knight when they met in New York in 2014 when the Gophers won the NIT. Knight told Pitino that he never will win in the Big Ten until his team plays a tougher nonconference schedule.

Well, this season, in addition to playing at Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Gophers will play Vanderbilt in Sioux Falls, S.D., and host St. John’s and Arkansas at Williams Arena.

All four new additions — walk-on Brady Rudrud of Eden Prairie and scholarship recruits Eric Curry of Little Rock, Ark., Amir Coffey of Hopkins and Michael Hurt of Rochester — enrolled in summer school and will work out during the summer.

And the word is that the Gophers decided not to go hard on recruiting Lakeville North star Nathan Reuvers, who committed to Wisconsin, because they are concentrating on signing Jericho Sims, a 2017 recruit from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis, who they believe has better potential. Sims’ father Charles Sims was one of the best basketball players for the Gophers from 1971 to ’75.

No mat clinics at U

Now that the University of Minnesota has told suspended wrestling coach J Robinson that he can’t hold the clinics that he has run for young athletes for close to 30 years in the Gibson-Nagurski building, the writing is on the wall that Robinson’s days as a member of the Maroon and Gold staff are numbered.

Robinson is holding the clinic he normally runs on the campus at Wisconsin-River Falls.

Meanwhile, assistant coach Brandon Eggum is acting as the interim wrestling coach. Eggum finished second in 1999 and third in 2000 at the NCAA championships.

No doubt with Robinson absent, the wrestling program in a mess because of allegations of prescription drug abuse, recruiting is suffering.


• Eric Amoako, a former cornerback at the University of Oregon, announced that he has accepted a scholarship to play his final season he has remaining of competition at Minnesota. Amoako didn’t play the 2012 season at Oregon and then played one game in 2013, before transferring to Houston Baptist, an FCS program. In 2014 he was responsible for 60 tackles, two pass deflections and returned a fumble for a touchdown. Last season he didn’t do as well, with 31 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.

• Four Gophers have signed professional baseball contracts. Senior lefthanded pitcher Dalton Sawyer, a ninth-round draft choice of Oakland, received a $50,000 bonus. Senior lefthander Jordan Jess, a 31st-round choice by Pittsburgh, signed for an unknown amount. Junior catcher Austin Athmann, a 14th-round choice by Detroit, received a $100,000 bonus, as did junior outfielder Matt Fiedler, a ninth-round pick by St. Louis.

• The Seattle Mariners selected Eli Wilson out of Seattle Garfield High School in the 37th round. He’s the son of Dan Wilson, the former Gophers catcher and current Mariners catching coordinator. Eli Wilson, also a catcher, hit .394 with six doubles, three triples, 17 RBI and 14 stolen bases as a senior. He’s committed to play for the Gophers.


Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com