Minnesota Politics Will Likely Force the Vikings Back Outdoors

For the first 20 years of their history the Vikings were an outdoor football team, playing their games at the fabled Old Met in Bloomington. Outdoor football in January in Minnesota meant bitter cold and lashing wind. Aided by the bone-chilling conditions, the Vikings took four conference titles, though they failed to ever win the Super Bowl.

In 1982 everything changed. The team moved out of the chilly Met for the cozy confines of the Metrodome, giving up the decided homefield advantage imparted by the bad January weather. A team that had once been known for hard-nosed, grinding football slowly evolved into a typical indoor team built less on physicality and more on speed. The Purple People Eaters of Bud Grant became Dennis Green’s track stars. The Vikings got so used to their comfortable home that by 2000 they had garnered a reputation as softies who couldn’t win outdoors on grass, especially not late in the year when the weather turned bad. A stark turnaround for a franchise once fabled for its ability to grind out victory under the harshest of conditions.

Many an older fan remains nostalgic for the days of the Met, when the Vikings were a hard-nosed and perennially successful team. Perhaps these sentimental fans are heartened by the knowledge that, if the politicians get their way, outdoor football will be returning to Minnesota. As things stand right now, the Vikings appear to have no options regarding the location of their new stadium. Arden Hills is out for being too expensive. The Basilica site is out for being too politically risky. The Farmer’s Market site is out for being too logistically difficult. That leaves only the Metrodome site itself as a viable choice. And building there will mean moving the team to the outdoor confines of TCF Bank Stadium for at least three years.

The Vikings have already expressed their displeasure with the idea of moving operations to TCF, citing the costs associated with upgrading that facility, not to mention the massive inconvenience to themselves, fans and everyone else. But the politicians have spoken. They won’t pay for Zygi Wilf’s superstadium in Arden Hills. They don’t want to tick off the Catholics who think building near the Basilica will damage the building. They won’t even listen to Shakopee despite the attractive proposal put together by that city’s mayor. Either the Vikings accept the Metrodome site and everything that comes with it, or they pack their bags and head out of town.

No one wants to even think about that second option. The NFL likes having a team in Minnesota, where TV ratings and stadium attendance remain high despite lean years in the win-loss column, and proximity to Wisconsin makes for a marketable rivalry. Zygi Wilf himself remains committed to staying in Minnesota and hasn’t yet threatened a move. And certainly the politicians aren’t lining up to chase the Vikings out of town, even in times of fiscal belt-tightening.

So, the new stadium deal will almost certainly get made. The deal will provide for a new domed stadium on the current Metrodome site. The Metrodome will be razed and the Vikings will once again become an outdoor team. Young fans will get to know the joy of December football in the snow and ice. And who knows? Maybe a little of that Old Met magic will come home to roost in TCF Bank Stadium and fans will get to know the joy of January football in the snow and ice. Could Christian Ponder become the new Fran Tarkenton? Jared Allen the new Jim Marshall? Toby Gerhart the new Bill Brown? Leslie Frazier the new Bud Grant?

Okay I got a little silly there at the end.

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Tags: Arden Hills Christian Ponder Jared Allen Metrodome Minnesota Vikings Zygi Wilf

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