City leaders, neighbors of stadium share hopes for Vikings new home

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December 17, 2012 // UPDATED 12:43 pm - July 20, 2013
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

Community leaders hope that the construction of the new Vikings stadium will bring about the demise of the sea of surface parking lots that currently dominate development around the Metrodome. 

“The Metrodome brought no development, in fact, I think it discouraged development,” said David Fields, community development coordinator for Elliot Park Neighborhood Inc. The Elliot Park Board of Directors issued a statement in July of 2011 that harshly condemned the Metrodome’s impact on their neighborhood. The statement contends that the Dome “has had an almost unqualified negative impact on Elliot Park Neighborhood over the past 30 years.”

Others echoed the sentiment at a public meeting regarding the new stadium on Nov. 26, but also expressed hope that the new stadium could usher in a new era of robust development in the area.

“This stadium could be a great generator of activity and community pride if done right, and we look forward to the challenges as we move forward both in the master plan and in the design of the stadium itself,” said John Hutchings, the architect chosen for Vikings stadium project.

Minneapolis City Council Member Kevin Reich (1st Ward) — who sits on the Vikings Stadium Implementation Committee — envisions a small network of eco-friendly green spaces around the stadium, similar to the Northeast Green Campus Initiative recently enacted around Edison High School. These spaces would infuse the asphalt-dominated landscape with some green, as well as employ water conservation best practices, which Reich considers crucial to Minneapolis’ long-term future.

“If you can do it at a community gym, why can’t you do it around the stadium? Even if it’s a fraction of the overall project, if they do a water mitigation project in [the area around the stadium] it would probably be one of the biggest in the state,” said Reich.

Little is known about the specifics of the stadium design, but a larger plaza space and multiple, large, welcoming entrances are virtually assured. 

“The new stadium really will have what they call four front doors, there’s not going to be that front end, back end feel the Metrodome has,” said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Stadium Authority. Hutchings said that HKS, the giant architectural design firm that is creating the stadium plans, has plans to hire a pedestrian consultant to ensure safe, easy foot traffic around the stadium.

HKS brings impressive green credentials to the Vikings stadium project. According to their website, the firm has completed 131 LEED certified or registered projects that cover over 93 million square-feet since their first LEED project in 1999. Those projects include the world’s first LEED Platinum certified stadium at the University of North Texas and the 242,000- square-foot Essentia Health Clinic in Duluth, which was completed in 2006 and received LEED Gold certification. 

While everyone seems to be on board with redeveloping many of the surface parking lots around the Metrodome, at the Nov. 26 meeting some community members pointed out the obvious consequence of removing parking lots: Less parking spaces will create more parking hassles.

Kelm-Helgen offered several solutions for the potential parking problem. First, in the stadium legislation the city is required to provide 2,000 parking spots within one block of the stadium, and another 500 spots within two blocks. She also anticipates more parking ramps being built within close proximity to the stadium, which will more efficiently use the prime square footage around the stadium as opposed to the surface lots employed today.

According to Kelm-Helgen, roughly 20 percent of Vikings fans use light rail to get to the game on Sundays. With the Central Corridor light rail line scheduled to come online in 2014, she said that the Met Council estimates game day ridership climbing to 30 to 40 percent by the time the new stadium opens.

Kelm-Helgen, Hutchings and Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development, spent the last week in November traveling the state soliciting input on the stadium from Minnesota residents. At these community meetings they laid out a timeline for the stadium construction.

Fifty percent of the stadium design will be presented by Hutchings in January, with the complete design due in March. After the complete design is revealed, there will be another round of public meetings for community feedback.

They hope to break ground by the end of 2013. It is unclear at this point whether the 2014 football season will be played at the Metrodome or TCF Bank Stadium — that will depend on construction progress, although the Vikings have made it clear they would prefer staying at the Metrodome through 2014. The 2015 season will be played at TCF, and barring any major setbacks the Vikings will open their new stadium in time for the 2016 season.