SBJ/August 1-7, 2011/Facilities

Vikings’ landlord preparing extension deals for Metrodome

Don Muret
The Minnesota Vikings are no closer to getting a new stadium deal done in the Twin Cities after Gov. Mark Dayton threw cold water on their plan to build an NFL facility in suburban St. Paul late last month, criticizing the project as “incomplete and unsatisfactory.”

With the Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome set to expire after this season, their landlord, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, is crafting a series of one-year extensions that would allow the club to continue playing there until the new stadium issue is resolved, according to Bill Lester, the commission’s executive director.

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The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome is set to expire after the current season ends.
The Vikings have not yet signed an extension, which brings up an interesting sidelight: After getting their deal done to build Target Field, the Minnesota Twins played their final three seasons at the Metrodome without a signed contract.

The Twins “simply could not agree on terms” with the commission on those short-team deals at the dome, said team President Dave St. Peter. Instead, the Twins played under the terms of their old Metrodome deal.

“As soon as we published a schedule and commenced our marketing program, that triggered the lease extension for that specific season, and we played there from 2007 through 2009 without a signed use agreement,” St. Peter said.

During their lengthy campaign to get a new stadium built in Minnesota, the Vikings have said publicly they are not interested in signing a lease extension until they get an agreement done to build a new facility.

The club’s position has not changed, said Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development. Bagley is aware of how the Twins dealt with the commission during their last hurrah at the dome.

“We haven’t really looked at that,” Bagley said. “We have been 100 percent focused on the new stadium issue.”

Technically, the Vikings could do the same thing, Lester said. But, he added, “We would rather have a signed contract.”

The Minnesota Legislature could schedule a special session later this year to revisit the Vikings’ stadium plan, Dayton said.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Sports architect Jonathan Cole recently spent a night working as an unpaid intern for the Peoria (Ill.) Chiefs at O’Brien Field, a minor league ballpark he designed 10 years ago at HNTB.

Cole, now a principal at Pendulum Studio, a Kansas City firm he co-founded in 2008, contacted Chiefs owner Rocky Vonachen for the opportunity to work for the team for one game and get a better sense of operational challenges tied to facility development. Over the course of the July 16 game, Cole passed out balls for the ceremonial first pitches, pulled fans from the stands for on-field promotions, stood on the dugout leading cheers for the Chiefs and cleaned debris from the postgame fireworks display.

The architect said he saw a few things he could improve on for planning future minor league parks, such as providing storage space in dugouts for promotional props and upgrading railings as a fan safety enhancement. After the tragic accident last month at Rangers Ballpark, where a fan died from a fall after reaching for a ball tossed by Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, the Chiefs no longer launch T-shirts to the suite level at O’Brien Field, 16 feet above the concourse.

“All things we need to keep in mind,” Cole said.

PANIC BUTTON: The Charlotte Bobcats got some good news during the ongoing NBA lockout when Widespread Panic booked Time Warner Cable Arena for its annual New Year’s Eve bash.

It all went according to plan, said Bobcats President Fred Whitfield. After initial talks with band management, the team knew it had a good chance to get Panic and reserved Dec. 31 for a concert when submitting available dates for NBA games to the league office, Whitfield said.

The Bobcats operate their arena and expect a full house of about 16,000 for the Dec. 31 show, said Pete Guelli, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer. AEG FacilitiesGlenn Grabski is the Bobcats’ talent buyer.

The Athens, Ga., act has a record 19 sellouts at Philips Arena, a number that covers nine New Year’s Eve shows in Atlanta.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.
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