SBJ/June 11 - 17, 2007/This Weeks News

Vikings to get Plan B for stadium

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission has hired sports architect Ellerbe Becket and general contractor Mortenson to update a seven-year-old study and determine what it could cost to upgrade the Metrodome.

The study, which is being done in case the plan to build a new downtown Minneapolis stadium for the Vikings does not get public approval, will produce fresh information for when the Minnesota Legislature reconvenes in February, said Bill Lester, the commission’s executive director. The study should be done by Aug. 1.

A study will examine renovating the Metrodome
in case a new stadium isn’t built.

State leaders next year will consider public financing for a separate plan the commission formed to build a $954 million NFL stadium near the Metrodome. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said he would commit $250 million for construction.

But the commission wants to have a backup plan ready because the clock is ticking on the Vikings’ lease, which expires after the 2011 season, Lester said. The Legislature is “going to ask the question” about how much it would cost in modern-day dollars to renovate the dome, he said.

The Vikings, fighting to keep their goal of building a new facility top of mind in the Twin Cities, think it’s a waste of the commission’s time and money to duplicate the previous study and try to improve a 25-year-old stadium whose footprint is up to 70 percent smaller than new NFL buildings.

“It is not economically feasible to renovate the Metrodome,” said Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and development.

Still, the Vikings provided the commission with new data for the study that contains more premium-seat options and other programming elements the team thinks could generate enough revenue for it to remain competitive in the NFL.

The team would require 65,000 seats, about 1,000 more than the dome’s current setup for football, with the ability to expand to 72,000 for the Super Bowl, 7,500 club seats and more suites designed in various configurations.

There are now no club seats, about 112 skyboxes and two terrace suites in each end zone that each seat about 120 people and have been sold out for Vikings games since they opened in 2005.

“There is going to be quite a glut of suites in the next few years when the new Twins and Gophers stadiums open and the Vikings want that flexibility to combine suites and use them for groups, whatever gives them the best return,” Lester said.

The previous study indicated it would cost $287 million to increase seating to 68,000, including 155 standard suites, Lester said.

The old study did not address parking. The Vikings, as part of the dome plan, are asking for a 2,500-space underground garage reserved exclusively for their premium-seat holders.

Ellerbe Becket stadium designer Paul Griesemer is working on the new Metrodome study after consulting on the $193 million restoration for the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

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