The undetermined future of Vikings tailgating in Minneapolis

With the pomp and circumstance of a Hollywood red carpet event, last Monday, May 6th the Vikings and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) unveiled the new Vikings stadium plans and pictures at the Guthrie theater on the Mississippi river in Minneapolis, MN.

[See video of the new Vikings stadium design here]

Since then the fan reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Season ticket holder Sarah Westbrook said, “It’s the most beautiful stadium I have ever seen.” Fan Brian Campbell said, “It looks like the Crystal Cathedral in California.”

Even non football fans were impressed. Jason Barnett of the said, “It looks like a great place to watch a soccer game.”

And fans have a lot to be excited about. Comparison between the Metrodome and the new stadium show stark improvements over the outdated 33 year old dome. Over twice the bathrooms of the existing stadium, wider concourses, seven levels including a club level and more comfortable seats are some of the basic things you would expect.

Minnesota Multi-Purpose Stadium at a Glance by Cory Merrifield

The two large Hi-Def screens (50’X120’) in each endzone that are larger than the big screens at Cowboys Stadium are also sure to make a big splash with fans.

The following day, commercial real estate firm Ryan Companies along with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak announced a $400 million dollar development across the street from the new stadium that would begin construction in July/August of 2013 if it clears all of the city’s regulatory hurdles.

The development includes two 20 story buildings with retail and shopping availability that would most likely be occupied by Wells Fargo bank. Across the street from the development would also include a nine acre green development that would have the feel of “Central Park” as a walk up to the stadium.

One of the biggest fears opponents and skeptics of the stadium expressed continuously was that the stadium would not spur development. Given there will be two parking ramps built adjacent to the stadium, the owner of the Armory is working on renovating and now the Ryan Co. proposed development has come forward, we can put to rest fears that there won’t be any new development.

With all of this great development however, Vikings fans could be losing something major in return: Tailgating.

The five block area surrounding the Star Tribune was precisely where our grassroots effort was formed. By walking through tailgating lots and educating fans on the stadium situation we formed a brotherhood that grew 30,000 strong. And now, those of us who fought so hard at the Capitol could be losing the one thing that brought us all together.

To be fair to the city of Minneapolis, of course they would want to develop that land. It’s been a pock mark in the middle of downtown Minneapolis for thirty years. And for the last three months it’s been a constant complaint by local businesses and Elliot Park representatives that they “don’t want to deal with obnoxious loud drunk Vikings fans.”

So while we’re not saying that the city and its communities are trying to get rid of tailgating, so far there haven’t been any discussions to preserve it. And we’re not the only ones taking notice.

Fans are starting to notice and are quietly working their angles to see what they can do to influence the changing landscape. The Vikings just this week wrapped up a study on what they think the numbers of tailgaters are and the number of people who drive to games.

The study hasn’t been released, but that study could be the key to identifying next steps in the process of finding our new home for tailgating. To be clear, tailgating will be at a premium around the new stadium and will not exist next season the way it exists today.

Last fall, founder and Stadium Implementation Committee member Cory Merrifield did a presentation on tailgating and what other urban stadiums are doing to retain that part of NFL culture where adjacent land becomes a rare commodity.

By far, the best urban stadium tailgating situation is Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. Just south of Soldier Field one mile are three large open parking lots where fans can park, tailgate and take free shuttles up to the game and back again after.  It’s large enough where all fans can tailgate in one spot, unlike Minneapolis where tailgating is disparate across eight different parking lots both north and east of the dome.

So if that’s the best case scenario, where could that type of tailgating transpire? That’ll be the question for fans, the Vikings and Merrifield to ask the city of Minneapolis who would ultimately have to work with the MSFA and the Vikings to make happen.

With the Stadium Implementation Committees now meeting regularly again, it is sure to be a conversation that will be brought up over the next 30 days to ensure it isn’t swept under the rug.

Stakeholder Experience Committee Presentation 10-19-12 by Cory Merrifield

Interior Football by Cory Merrifield

Exterior Plaza by Cory Merrifield

Aerial Exterior by Cory Merrifield

About the Author

Founder and author of Born and raised in MN, Cory has been a lifelong Vikings fan. Season ticket holder, stop by and see him in section 218!