One thing is certain: the Minnesota Vikings’ lease for the Metrodome expired on February 1. And even this certainty is not fully certain, as stadium officials argued that a roof collapse kick-started a lease term which subsequently requires the Vikings to play in the Metrodome through the 2012 season.
That being said, however, the expiration of that lease is the cause for many uncertainties. The largest question is namely, where the Vikings will play after finishing out the 2012 season at the Metrodome. For years, the Vikings have argued that because of the need for upgrades to the Metrodome, the team has lost a significant amount of money as a result of playing there. Given these arguments and the state of Minnesota’s desire to keep its most profitable sporting franchise within the confines of its border, a serious stadium proposal debate has been brewing.
At this point in the debate, it appears that two locations are being eyed for the site of the Vikings’ new stadium: the Metrodome and what was formerly an Army ammunition center in the Arden Hills suburb of Minneapolis. Each site presents its own benefits and complications. However, analysis of each seems to indicate where the Vikings will be playing future games.
Have no doubt about it: Arden Hills is the Minnesota Vikings organization’s preferred stadium site.
For starters, the Vikings prefer the Arden Hills site because the land is presently available to build on. With previous stadium plans for the Metrodome, the Vikings would be forced to play a significant number of games at the University of Minnesota’s football stadium, TCF Bank Stadium, while the new stadium is being completed. This would cost the Vikings a significant amount of money. As such, the Vikings in-part favor the Arden Hills location because they could continue playing in the Metrodome while the stadium is being built, and additionally, because they could begin building on the Arden Hills site immediately.
Additionally, the Vikings have their eyes on the Arden Hills site because of the site’s size. The Arden Hills site spans 170 acres. This would clearly give the Vikings options to build more than just a stadium on the site. Likely, they would build fan attractions, including restaurants and merchandise vendor areas, which would bring in additional visitors to the location and more revenue.
While there are clearly some significant benefits in choosing the Arden Hills location, the major downfall of this site’s proposal is funding for the site. Funding for the new stadium is expected to come from three sources: the Vikings, the state of Minnesota and the locality of wherever the stadium is ultimately built.
To date, Arden Hills has not been able to propose a source of funding which is acceptable to the Minnesota legislature. This is because Arden Hills wishes to increase the city’s sales tax to fund its portion of the stadium. To increase sales tax, one of two things must happen: a referendum must be passed or the state legislature must approve the increase. Getting a referendum on the ballot and subsequently passing it (which, many do not believe that Arden Hills could do), would take a significant amount of time. This process would further delay the building of the Vikings’ new stadium. Additionally, the state legislature has continuously indicated that it will not vote to pass a sales tax increase in this legislative session.
Thus, while the Vikings’ preferred site location may be the Arden Hills site, it is apparent that the location is not the favorite of the Minnesota government.
The Minnesota government clearly has its eyes on another site location: the Metrodome. In early conversations regarding building a new stadium, a proposal was made to essentially build a new stadium where the Metrodome is presently located. As noted above, the Vikings strongly opposed this proposal, because it would require them to pay a significant amount of money to play at TCF Bank Stadium while the stadium was being built.
Recently, however, a new proposal has been made which involves building to begin in a parking lot portion of the Metrodome. This would allow the Vikings to only have to play at handful of games at TCF Bank Stadium, thus reducing their costs on that front. While the Vikings have not voiced as much support for the Metrodome parking lot plan as they have for the Arden Hills site, they also have not voiced serious opposition to it.
The benefit that the Metrodome site has over the Arden Hills location, is that there appears to be more reliable sources of funding for the project. Again, significant portions of funding for the stadium at the Metrodome site will come from the Vikings and the state of Minnesota. Unlike Arden Hills, however, Minneapolis has not suggested a sales tax increase to fund its portion of the stadium. Rather, it would like to use gambling revenue from a pull-tab game to fund its portion of the stadium. There has been some debate as to how much revenue this source could bring in, but for the time being, it appears that the Minnesota legislature views this as a more reasonable funding option than anything proposed by Arden Hills.
Where will the Vikings’ new stadium be built?
There are several factors which will ultimately determine where the Vikings’ new stadium will be built. The two most important are time and money.
With respect to time, if the Vikings are willing to extend their lease with the current Metrodome for several more seasons, they increase the likelihood that they can secure Arden Hills as their new stadium site. This is because the Vikings could lobby to have a referendum put on the ballot to increase sales tax in Arden Hills. As noted above, getting a referendum on the ballot and passing it takes time. So unless Arden Hills can find a source of funding other than a sales tax increase, the Vikings are going to have to wait to secure this option. If they can do so, and if they can convince voters that building a new stadium at the Arden Hills site is necessary to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, then the Vikings will likely be playing in Arden Hills in upcoming seasons.
However, the more likely scenario is that a new stadium will be built in the parking lot location at the current Metrodome. It is unlikely that the Vikings want to wait longer than necessary to move out of the current Metrodome. For years, the Vikings have said that they are losing money by playing in the current Metrodome. If a reasonable proposal for a new stadium is put into place, the Vikings would be crazy not to jump at the chance to accept it.
With funding apparently secured for the Metrodome location, the small number of games the Vikings would have to play at TCF Bank Stadium and the Vikings’ apparent acceptance of the proposed Metrodome parking lot location, it appears that this will be the site of the new Vikings stadium.