If billionaire Philip Anschutz has his way, Los Angeles will soon have a new NFL team. That team could end up being the Vikings.
Tim Leiweke, president of the dreaded AEG, has confirmed Anschutz’s interest in purchasing majority stake in an existing franchise, with an eye toward installing that team in AEG’s proposed Farmers Field. Speaking to the Orange County Register, Leiweke named the five teams on his and Mr. Anschutz’s list of targets: Minnesota, St. Louis, Oakland, Jacksonville and San Diego.
Leiweke said he had contact with one team “a week ago.” The OC Register said this unnamed team is “believed” to have been the Vikings.
For their part, the Vikings insist they are “100 committed” to getting a new stadium in the Minneapolis metro area. “We believe we’re in position to get our situation resolved this year in a special [legislative] session,” stadium front-man Lester Bagley said. “That’s where our energy is focused.”
Bagley says the Vikings have spoken to no one at AEG since last month’s well-publicized hotel meeting, which the team insists had nothing to do with moving to L.A.
The Vikings have a deal in place with Rasmey County for a new multi-purpose facility in Arden Hills, but are stuck in a political quagmire. It’s possible that the problem, which mostly revolves around the cost of highway improvements in Arden Hills, will be sorted out during a special session. It’s also possible the Vikings will head into the 2011 season without financing for a stadium and only one year left on their Metrodome lease. In which case…gulp.
Opting out of the Ramsey County deal and settling for the less-costly downtown Minneapolis alternative is still on the table, but I’m sure Zygi Wilf would be bitterly disappointed if they had to resort to this. Maybe even disappointed enough to scrap the stay-in-Minneapolis plan altogether and take the AEG/Anschutz deal.
Nothing coming out of the Vikings camp about this story is really worth much. Naturally, they are going to say they’re committed to staying in Minnesota. And of course they’re happy the AEG/Philip Anschutz story is out there because they need all the leverage they can get.
It’s still too soon to panic. But if the Minnesota legislature doesn’t start moving? There will be more rumors, more denials and more severe nail-biting.