University of Minn. President Eric Kaler
SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler said Friday the U of M is in ongoing talks with the Minnesota Vikings over accomodations at the TCF Bank Stadium.
"We are in conversation with the Vikings," Kaler said, noting that school officials speak to members of the Vikings' executive team by phone often.
"I am hopeful that we can be helpful to the state of Minnesota in retaining the Vikings," Kaler told reporters at the State Capitol Friday morning.
The Vikings would need to play at the U for three years if the team loses access to the Metrodome during construction of a new stadium at that site. That's one of the reasons the team's first choice for a new sports complex remains the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills.
But the Metrodome site has gained favor with many lawmakers because of the land is already publicly owned and would require little in the way of transportation improvements. The issue is far from settled, however, because the Minneapolis City Council is insisting on a public vote on the city's financing package.
Kaler was at the Capitol to brief political reporters about the U's bonding request, and the connection between lagging state support and tuition hikes. But the possibility of the university becoming the Vikings' landlord inevitably worked its way into the conversation.
"The Viking question; what a surprise!" Kaler laughed.
He said he's well aware that the NFL team would require upgrades to the playing field, which lacks built-in heating coils. The turf had to be heated with portable heaters under a tarp when the Vikings played the Bears there in the wake of the Dome's roof collapse in 2010.
"Facilities enhancement would include additional seating on a temporary basis, heating for the field and some enhancements for the concourse," Kaler said, noting that those expenses would not be borne by the university system.
"It would not be a request from the university for those facilities," he said. "That request would be made from the NFL and the Vikings, and would be part of the total package for a new Vikings stadium."
Kaler said the university would also be mindful on the impact to the neighbor, in terms of noise, traffic and parking.
"The neighborhoods around the stadium certainly are impacted by our game-day activities. Having another eight games, plus exhibition, and - of course - the playoffs, would be an imposition on neighborhoods."
Other concerns that have been raised include the state legislature's ban on alcohol at the stadium, and conflicts between the two team's vendors and sponsors. Kaler said he believed all of the issues were solvable.
Kaler said it's likely the university could create an arrangement allowing alcohol sales for Sunday games, while still prohibiting booze for Saturday NCAA games.
The legislature at one point told the University it can only serve alcohol at TCF Bank stadium if it's allowed in all areas. The U of M had proposed serving it only in premium seating.
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