Vikings looking to cut costs with new location

Updated: October 31, 2003, 8:31 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press