<
>

Vikings looking to cut costs with new location

10/31/2003 - Minnesota Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Trying to lure the Minnesota Vikings
across the border, South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds told the team
Friday that his state can offer "perhaps the premiere training
camp in the NFL" in Sioux Falls.

Rounds and the Sioux Falls delegation were at Winter Park to
present their bid to lure the team from Mankato, the Vikings'
summer home for the last 39 years.

Duluth, Fargo-Moorhead and Mankato also made proposals before
Friday's deadline. Executive vice president Mike Kelly said he was
impressed by all the cities. He wouldn't name a leading contender,
but said the team would spend less money than it has in the past.

The Vikings' contract with Mankato has expired, and they're
looking for a place that will help them cut costs. The team plans
to decide on a site by the end of November. Under the previous
contract with Minnesota State University, the Vikings paid roughly
$500,000 to hold camp.

"What we've said all along, we want to find ways to minimize
expenses, or eliminate expenses," Kelly said. "And at the same
time, create an opportunity to grow our fan base, grow our brand
and hopefully grow revenues for the team."

Each group sounded confident about their respective bids.

"We really do think that we would be offering them perhaps the
premiere training camp in the NFL," Rounds said after his
contingent presented Sioux Falls' $5.6 million proposal.

Earlier this week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty warned the team that the
Vikings' chances for a new stadium could be hurt if it moved
training camp out of Minnesota.

Asked about Pawlenty's comments on Friday, Kelly said he didn't
think the governor was trying to intimidate the Vikings.

"I think the message that he's trying to say is, 'Let's make
sure we stay focused on the big picture.' And the big picture is
how do we find a long-term solution for the Minnesota Vikings which
keeps them here in this community and viable?"

Rounds said he commended Pawlenty for protecting his state's
interests.

Pawlenty, meanwhile, didn't back down from his statement, saying
Friday that a decision to hold camp outside of Minnesota would be a
"horrendous public relations misstep."

"They've got to do what they've got to do from a business
standpoint, but boy, this seems like a pretty dumb public relations
move," he said.

The Sioux Falls City Council has voted to spend $2 million on
improvements at Howard Wood Field in hopes of bringing training
camp to town. A practice field and new locker room and
weight-training facility are included in the plan.

As for Duluth, task force chairman Jeff Papas unveiled the
city's proposal at an afternoon news conference. The site would be
based at the University of Minnesota-Duluth campus.

"The proposal we gave them scratched their itch and they
mentioned that," Papas said.

Fargo-Moorhead officials, meanwhile, said the team was impressed
with the quality of the facilities at the Fargodome and North
Dakota State University.

"I had planned on having about 25 minutes," said Cole Carley,
executive director of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors
Bureau. "We wound up having about an hour. We had a little more
back and forth than I thought we would, which makes me a bit more
optimistic."

But officials from Fargo-Moorhead were scrambling late Friday to
finish written proposals.

Kelly stopped short of calling the Mankato the favorite but said
its proximity to the Twin Cities -- about 85 miles southwest of
Minneapolis -- gives it an advantage.

"For us to choose to leave that partnership we'd have to have
an opportunity that was demonstrably better," Kelly said.

Kelly said a committee of team officials would review the bids
next week before submitting questions to each group. After that,
the committee will make a recommendation and have a site selected
by the end of November.