SBD/January 28, 2013/Facilities

Vikings At Odds With Sports Facilities Authority Over Baseball Specifics For New Stadium

Vikings officials and members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority "are at odds over how to squeeze a baseball field into a stadium designed primarily for football," according to Richard Meryhew of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The impasse not only "threatens to delay a nearly-billion-dollar project already facing tight deadlines, but also appears to be an early test of just how accommodating the Vikings will prove in the development of a multipurpose 'people's stadium.'" The Vikings, "hoping to put ticket holders and stadium suites as close to the action as any team in the NFL, favor a preliminary design that places the first row of seats 44 feet from the football playing field." But that design "squeezes some baseball dimensions." The "most glaring" is a right-field foul line that "extends 285 feet from home plate and a right-field power alley 319 feet away." Both distances are "short by college and professional standards, and both are about 20 feet shorter than the design, already scaled back, favored by baseball coaches and the public stadium authority." Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said the Vikings "fully support" the mission of delivering a multipurpose stadium that accommodates college and amateur baseball. But he added, "44 feet is very important to our organization. It's about balancing the team's interest with the public's interest. And the bottom line there is there is just not enough money in the budget to achieve everyone's goals." MSFA Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said, "We've kind of come to the point where we've given in on everything, and now it's a matter of whether baseball can play in the stadium or not." Meryhew noted under the stadium financing legislation approved last year, if the team and the authority "can't agree on minimum design standards, the issue could go to arbitration" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/27).

THE FUTURE OF THE NFL STADIUM: NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman said that the next generation of NFL stadiums "could be markedly different than the ones we now know." He envisions "smaller and more intimate venues, possibly more like basketball arenas, with standing-room-only clubs at the corners." Grubman: "What if a new stadium we built wasn't 70,000, but it was 40,000 seats with 20,000 standing room? But the standing room was in a bar-type environment with three sides of screens, and one side where you see the field. Completely connected. And in those three sides of screens, you not only got every piece of NFL content, including replays, Red Zone (Channel), and analysis, but you got every other piece of news and sports content that you would like to have if you were at home." He added, "Now you have the game, the bar and social setting, and you have the content. What's that ticket worth? What's that environment feel like to a young person? Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in that seat, or do you want to be in that pavilion?" (L.A. TIMES, 1/27).
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