SBJ/20100426/This Week's News

Vikings stadium talks include adding center-hung video board

The Minnesota Vikings have set their sights on a center-hung video board after the NFL prototype has proved to be a game-changer at Cowboys Stadium.

The Vikings have talked with their architect, HKS, about the possibility of hanging a big screen over the field from a fixed roof at a rebuilt Metrodome, confirmed Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development.

“All things being equal, that would be our preference once we sort out our financing package,” Bagley said. “But it’s still a little early to say, ‘Put us down for a center-hung.’”

At this point, all scoreboard options are on the table until state lawmakers approve a finance plan, said principals tied to the project. The Minnesota Legislature’s spring session concludes May 17, and the Vikings are keeping their fingers crossed that a stadium bill will be drafted by that date.

Cowboys Stadium showed other teams
the possibilities.

HKS, designer of the Cowboys’ facility in Arlington, Texas, has been working with general contractor Mortenson to plan the Metrodome renovation since September 2008, after the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the Vikings’ landlord, selected the two firms for the job.

As of now, the $870 million budget for a dome retrofit includes $7.5 million for a traditional end-zone scoreboard, an old baseline number that would have to be bumped up significantly to include a center-hung board, said Bill Lester, the commission’s executive director.

“We would need some more analysis on the impact of the board, the cost vs. benefit,” Bagley said. “The Vikings always kind of liked what the Cowboys have, the fact that it’s the latest and greatest out there.”

Mitsubishi Electric produced the center-hung board spanning 60 yards at Cowboys Stadium, a $40 million investment paid for by team owner Jerry Jones. Vikings owners Zigi and Mark Wilf saw the board when they made a side trip to Arlington while visiting Houston for a preseason game last year.

The Cowboys have used the world’s largest television screens as an asset to generate millions in non-NFL revenue by booking a multitude of special events outside of football, most notably the NBA All-Star Game and the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight.

In drawing huge crowds for those two events, including 108,713 for the All-Star Game, the Cowboys proved they can compete against home theater systems by elevating the in-stadium experience. “That’s what drove the Cowboys to make the fan experience everything it could be,” Bagley said.

In Minneapolis, the Metrodome has played host to the Super Bowl and two Final Fours, but none since 2001. Lester acknowledged a center-hung board could boost the market’s chances for bringing those mega-events back to town.

The risk vs. reward for the more costly center-hung boards is worth taking a closer look, industry professionals said. “I think it’s safe to say that for any [indoor stadium] from here on out, a center-hung board would be a consideration,” said Dave Belding, Mitsubishi Electric’s regional sales manager.

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