NEWS

Vikings will help pay for park near new stadium

Tuesday, Dec 15, 2015

The Minnesota Vikings are nearing terms for a donation to the new Commons park in downtown Minneapolis, which is still less than halfway funded.

The team, which helped pay for the land for the park near its new stadium, will also contribute to its construction, Vikings Executive Vice President Lester Bagley said Monday during a meeting of the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Sports Facilities. He said the team would ask some of its partners to help pay for the park, too.

Terms of an agreement between the Vikings and Green Minneapolis, the conservancy organization charged with park fundraising, are likely to be finalized this week. A source familiar with the discussions said the team will contribute $2 million. The Vikings and the conservancy declined to discuss specifics.

"We are working with Green Minneapolis about making a significant contribution to this effort," Bagley said.

City officials, who see the Vikings as one of the primary beneficiaries of the park, have pressured the club in recent months. At a news conference in August, city leaders indirectly criticized the Vikings, saying all but one of the three clear stakeholders in the park had contributed. Vikings executives noted at the time that they paid $1 million of the city's $19 million purchase of the land for the park, previously owned by the Star Tribune Media Co.

On Monday, City Council Member Jacob Frey said he was pleased with the team's latest move and is "confident several other relatively significant donations are on the way."

The park's supporters envision a 4-acre destination green space near the new U.S. Bank Stadium and the new Wells Fargo towers in Downtown East that would serve multiple purposes, like large public events, recreation for nearby residents and leisure for downtown workers.

Green Minneapolis, the public-private conservancy established by the Minneapolis Downtown Council to lead the Commons effort, has gathered $7 million in pledges from the city, Ryan Cos. and Wells Fargo & Co. That's enough to cover excavation and environmental work and plant grass — a start, but not the transformational space leaders imagine.

The ideal design, drafted by San Francisco-based Hargreaves Associates, will cost about $22 million. The business community has been championing the park effort from the beginning, viewing downtown livability issues as important for workforce attraction and retention.

The Vikings' new contribution comes a month after the club agreed to pitch in $6 million of the $9.6 million needed by the Metropolitan Council to build a pedestrian bridge from the stadium to the Downtown East light-rail station.

The city and Green Minneapolis have not set a deadline for raising the park funds, but both are concerned about a long-term plan to fund park operations and maintenance, which is estimated to cost about $1 million each year. The $22 million goal includes about four years of maintenance.

"We are trying to create a first-rate, choreographed facility and that kind of vision does require constant upkeep, and we're not just talking about taking the trash bags out of the trash cans," Frey said.

The city will soon decide whether to hand park operations to Green Minneapolis.

The park news came as part of an hourlong update provided to the legislative panel by the Vikings and Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen. Most of the discussion gave legislators an update on the construction of the $1.1 billion project.

The most pointed question of the session came from Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, who wanted to know how much the Vikings received from U.S. Bancorp for the stadium's naming rights. One report said the company will pay about $11 million annually to the Vikings for 20 years. The team and company have said that figure is too high, though they have declined to reveal specific details.

Acknowledging that such information typically isn't provided to the public in such deals, Bonoff said the public should be told. Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, agreed. "It seems like they would be entitled to know what some of these contracts are going for," Scott said.

 

startribune.com

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