Favre Injured, Dome Deflated as Vikings End Season Searching for New Home

Long after their playoff chances vanished, their coach was fired and quarterback Brett Favre finally sidelined, the Minnesota Vikings face the end of the National Football League season unsure where they will next call home.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met this month with Minnesota’s governor-elect, Mark Dayton, along with other political, business and union representatives.

He said the Vikings need a new place to play after the collapse of the Metrodome’s roof this month left the team hosting games in Detroit and outdoors in 23-degree Fahrenheit (minus-4 Celsius) temperatures at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank stadium.

“I think there’s a recognition that we need to find a long-term solution for the Vikings here and get a new stadium built,” Goodell said at a pregame news conference on Dec. 20. “We are all going to be working hard to develop these solutions and keep the Vikings here in Minnesota.”

The Vikings have said they won’t renew the deal when their stadium lease expires in 2011, so the team itself may become a free agent, said Robert Baade, who teaches sports economics at Chicago’s Lake Forest College and has written studies including “Selling the Game: Measuring the Economic Impact of Professional Sports Through Taxable Sales.”

“I think the people of Minnesota will have to make a decision either to build a new stadium or lose the team,” Baade said in a telephone interview.

New Stadium

The Vikings are lobbying for a new building, saying the 28- year-old Metrodome in Minneapolis doesn’t make enough money. Lester Bagley, a Vikings spokesman on stadium issues, said in a statement that a new facility shouldn’t be discussed in light of the roof collapse. He didn’t return telephone calls or e-mails seeking comment.

The stadium will be closed until the end March, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis said today, citing Bill Lester, the executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission.

Los Angeles has competing proposals to build a stadium that may lure the NFL back to the second-largest U.S. market. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league has no immediate plans to put a team there.

This season began with high expectations for the Vikings after they came within one victory of reaching the Super Bowl. Now 6-9 after a 24-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles two days ago, Minnesota faded from contention, fired coach Brad Childress, who feuded with Favre, and cut receiver Randy Moss.

Stadium Legislation

State Senator Julie Rosen, a Republican, said she’ll introduce legislation next month to finance a stadium. She said that bill may be similar to a $790 million plan that stalled this year, which would have diverted sales-tax money from the Minneapolis Convention Center toward a new stadium.

“The Vikings are a great asset to our state, and I have received considerable support for my efforts,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I am committed to finding a creative solution to help the team finance a stadium that does not use state tax dollars.”

State Senator John Marty, a Democrat, said that plan would be a subsidy to team owner Zygmunt Wilf of about $42 on every ticket, at a time when the state has been cutting spending for courts and schools to attack a budget deficit of $6.2 billion.

Dayton, a Democrat who takes over the governor’s office next year, toured the Metrodome this month and described it as a “stark picture.” He said a stadium deal, if it creates a predicted 8,000 jobs, would help stimulate the economy.

Labor Problems

The Vikings may have time to decide where to go. NFL owners voted in 2008 to opt out of the labor agreement with players after this season. Negotiations haven’t yielded a new agreement. The union says the NFL is preparing for a lockout; the league says it wants an agreement as soon as possible.

The Metrodome was completed in 1982 at a cost of about $55 million, paid from revenue bonds and liquor taxes. The bonds were all redeemed as of Dec. 31, 2009, according to the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission’s annual report.

Wilf, a 60-year-old New Jersey-based commercial real-estate developer, bought the Vikings from Red McCombs for $600 million in 2005, promising “We will be in Minneapolis forever” and saying he’d like to build an open-air stadium.

The Vikings moved outdoors this season when the inflatable roof -- 10 acres of Teflon-coated Fiberglas --collapsed under the weight of 17 inches (43 centimeters) of snow. The game against the New York Giants was moved to Dec. 13 in Detroit’s Ford Field, the closest indoor NFL stadium to Minneapolis. Tickets were given away.

Shovel Snow

The team held its final home game of the season a week later at the TCF Bank Stadium, which seats about 14,000 fewer than the Metrodome. The university recruited fans to shovel out the snow, and the Vikings honored tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.

Roy Terwilliger, chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, said the agency would bear the cost of repairs to the Metrodome. Birdair Inc., the Amherst, New York- based company that built the roof, told the commission in July that replacing it may cost as much as $15 million. The commission’s lease with the Vikings requires business- interruption insurance.

Favre’s Year

Favre didn’t play against the Eagles and may stay on the sideline when the Vikings end their season Jan. 2 at the Detroit Lions. The 41-year-old quarterback, a three-time NFL most valuable player, ended his record 297-game streak of consecutive regular-season starts, mostly with the Green Bay Packers, this month after a shoulder injury left his hand numb. He also was fined $50,000 by the league yesterday for failing to cooperate in its investigation of the quarterback’s action toward a female co-worker when both were with the New York Jets in 2008.

As the Vikings’ fans endure a disappointing season, Minnesota taxpayers are facing a decision, Baade said.

“The threat that the team could move is greatly enhanced at this point,” he said. “I think this really puts Minnesotans up against it.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Kuriloff in New York at akuriloff@bloomberg.net; Darrell Preston in Dallas at dpreston@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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