Minnesota Vikings shore up agreement to play at TCF Stadium

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will pay a hefty price while they wait for their shiny, new home to be built.

The Vikings and the University of Minnesota announced an agreement Thursday that will allow the NFL team to play all of its home games at the Golden Gophers' stadium in 2014 and 2015. The contract calls for the Vikings to pay the university $250,000 for every game and an additional $50,000 in concession and advertising revenue. That could add up to as much as $3 million per season above all expenses.

"I think we've reached a very fair agreement for both sides," University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler said. "It's the classic example of a win-win."

The university will also keep all parking revenue and the Vikings will be responsible for paying for upgrades to TCF Bank Stadium that are required, including heating the artificial turf field, winterizing the stadium so that it can be fully operational in November, December and January, and adding seats to increase capacity. The agreement was unanimously approved by a committee at the board of regents meeting Thursday and is expected to gain full approval Friday.

"This shows the collaborative nature between the Minnesota Vikings and the University of Minnesota," Vikings vice president of legal affairs Kevin Warren said. "Hopefully we can win two Super Bowls while we're playing here and leave a lasting legacy."

The Vikings are planning 2013 to be their last in the Metrodome. They won a decade-long fight for a new stadium last year when state lawmakers approved public funding to help build a brand new building in downtown Minneapolis, where the Dome currently sits.

The Vikings' agreement with the Gophers includes two additional years if necessary, an important designation given that the state's side of the funding -- initially planned to be paid for by electronic gambling machines -- has been slow to get started. But the Vikings made clear that they only plan to be playing at TCF for two seasons.

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The Vikings will be limited to one weekday night game each season, which can only take place late in the year when school is not in session and when the weather is likely to be the coldest. They will most likely take a pretty big hit in ticket revenue in the smaller stadium.

The Metrodome's capacity is more than 64,000 fans. TCF Bank Stadium holds less than 51,000, but the Vikings could add bleacher seating in one end zone that could bump the capacity up by 2,000 to 3,000 seats.

"TCF Bank Stadium is a tremendous college football stadium. It's outstanding," Vikings vice president of stadium development Lester Bagley said. "But it's not an NFL stadium, and that is a challenge. There will be limitations, there will be challenges ongoing for our fans, for the Vikings, for the university. But the relationship that's been built and the partnership going forward is comforting. We're just very grateful to the university for allowing us to play two seasons at their beautiful stadium."

The plan is to install a new heating element next summer to ensure the tundra is a little less frozen in December than the last time the Vikings played at TCF.

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The Vikings were forced outdoors to the Gophers stadium in 2010 after a snowstorm collapsed the Dome's roof. University officials scrambled to get the building ready, but Brett Favre blamed the icy turf for a concussion that ultimately ended his career.

Among the most challenging parts of the agreement was navigating several sponsor conflicts between the two parties. The Golden Gophers are sponsored by Coca-Cola, which has a long-term contract to be the exclusive soft drink provider to the entire campus.

The Vikings have a sponsorship deal with Pepsi and Gatorade, so a compromise had to be reached. The two sides agreed to allow Gatorade drinks and towels on the sideline and Gatorade and Pepsi will be served in one suite in the stadium as well as being allowed advertising in the Vikings game day programs.

Coca-Cola products will be served everywhere else in the stadium, as will alcohol and tailgating in parking lots near the stadium.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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