MINNEAPOLIS -- One day after being told by the Minnesota Vikings that extending the lease at the Metrodome wasn't an option, the team's landlord made the offer anyway and infuriated the only major tenant left in the stadium.
The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission passed a plan Thursday to offer a two-year extension on the lease, which is scheduled to expire in 2011. It calls for the Vikings to receive revenue from any postseason games at the Metrodome, but it also threatens to reinstate a $4 million annual rent if the team doesn't sign the extension.
The Vikings sent a scathing letter to the commission Wednesday denouncing the plan, which the team calls a "sneak attack" that "sends the wrong message to those aimed at keeping the team in the state of Minnesota."
"They knew it was completely unacceptable, but they advanced it anyway," said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs/stadium development.
The Vikings, including owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, have worked with the commission to develop a plan for a new stadium on the Metrodome site. With Brett Favre at quarterback and the team off to an 8-1 start this season, the Vikings believe they have more momentum than ever to try for a stadium deal funded by private and public money and get out of the outdated Metrodome.
MSFC chairman Roy Terwilliger said the top priority is to plan a new stadium that satisfies the Vikings, and Thursday's decision "is just another step in a very long process of figuring out the best way of accomplishing that goal."
The Vikings aren't willing to wait. Bagley said the commission's offer "sends a very bad message to the owners, the state and the league about the ability to solve the problem in Minnesota."
The Twins and the University of Minnesota football team have both moved out of the outdated Metrodome to shiny new facilities of their own. The Vikings say it is their turn. The team is at the bottom of the NFL in revenue, thanks in large part to its stadium deal, and says it needs a new building to remain competitive.
Since 2002, the Vikings have played in the Metrodome rent-free, a gesture made to acknowledge the difficulty in producing revenue in the building. The threat of reinstating the annual rent payments has strained the discussion.
"What kind of message does that send?" Bagley said. "We want to lock you in for two more years in the most dysfunctional stadium in the league."
Terwilliger said the commission has shown good faith by paying for an architecture and design study for a new facility and by allowing the Vikings to keep the money generated from new sponsorship deals with the Metrodome. He doesn't believe the relationship between the sides ended Thursday.
"It sounds a little more messy and fractured than it probably is," Terwilliger said. "For us to be successful, we have to work together."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press