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Vikings Blitz For New Stadium
By William Wilcoxen
September 1, 1999
Part of MPR Online's Stadium Wars series.

The headline atop this morning's Minneapolis newspaper stirred the Twin Cities' simmering stadium debate. "McCombs Demands New Stadium" reported the Star Tribune. Minnesota Vikings owner Red McCombs now says his remarks were not a Demand, but nevertheless the Vikings are reiterating their feeling that the team must have a new stadium in the next few years to continue to compete in Minnesota.

THE VIKINGS CAME within an overtime period of the Super Bowl in January and they're about to revive the "purple pride" by travelling to Atlanta to seek revenge on those dirty birds, the Falcons, in this season's opener. So Red McCombs' comments about the Vikings' need for a new stadium should be met with open arms at the Capitol, right?
Moe: I don't think it's going to make the cause any easier. My guess is that most legislators were probably a bit incited by those kind of comments.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, a DFLer from Erskine, says McCombs' remark to a business group that the Vikings need a new stadium or they may not be Around five years from now, did little to help the stadium cause. Moe says lawmakers may be willing to talk about ways to help the Vikings, but he says legislators are keenly aware that the football team's lease at Minneapolis' Metrodome runs through the year 2011.
Moe: Somehow, contracts don't seem to mean anything when it comes to sports arenas, I guess.
The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission is the Vikings' landlord at the Metrodome. Executive Director Bill Lester says the commission, an arm of the Metropolitan Council, has no plans to let the Vikings out of their lease to play in a newer stadium in another city.
Lester: We intend to use all the tools in our arsenal to ensure that the obligations of that contract are met. We also have an agreement with the National Football League in which they pledge to not allow teams to voluntarily leave when they're engaged in a contact.
Red McCombs is a San Antonio billionaire whose fortune was built on car sales and came to include holdings in oil, television and radio stations, and sports teams. Since he bought the Vikings last summer, some northerners have wondered if he intends to move the team to his football-rabid home state. But Vikings General Manager Tim Connolly insists the Vikings do not want to leave Minnesota and are campaigning for a stadium for that reason.
Connolly: If Red wanted to move, he'd move. We don't need to go through fighting, fighting, fighting to get a stadium built in Minnesota. That's what we want. We want to stay in Minnesota, but we want a building that can compete.
The Vikings have sold all their tickets for the upcoming season. During their record-breaking success last year, the coach and players often mentioned the boost the team got from the raucous fans and sure footing of the dome, which seats more than 63,000 for football.

But Connolly says playing in the dome threatens the team's viability. He says 21 of the 31 NFL teams have gained new stadiums in the last 10 years. Those new stadiums are generally publicly subsidized and come with new amenities that raise more money for the teams that play in them. Connolly says apart from a lease that gives the Vikings none of the Metrodome's parking, concessions, or advertising revenue, the building is no longer adequate for an NFL team.
Connolly: We're the second-smallest stadium in the league. We have no club seats. We have minimal concession stands. We don't have any restaurants. The concourses are 24-feet wide. It's like being in a cattle chute. People can't go to the restroom and get a Coke at the same time, they'll miss the third quarter.
Connolly says McCombs is ready to pay one-fourth of the cost of a new stadium. He says the remainder could be publicly funded. The Minnesota Twins have also declared the Metrodome unsuitable for their needs. The baseball team is working with Saint Paul Mayor Norm Coleman to gain public support for a $325 million ballpark , the cost of which could be divided among the team, the city, and the state. But Governor Jesse Ventura opposes using public money for pro sports stadiums. He's calling for the Vikings to open their finances to public scrutiny to help taxpayers make an informed decision on whether they deserve public funding.