EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have agreed with representatives from two Minneapolis neighborhood associations on a plan that would expand the tailgate zone near U.S. Bank Stadium.
Officials from the Vikings, the Elliot Park Neighborhood and Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association reached the agreement Tuesday night. It will soon be presented to members of the Minneapolis City Council for consideration.
Vikings Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley said the agreement is a sign of progress that is a result of nearly four years of planning. The initial plans between the Vikings and Minneapolis began, Bagley said, after the stadium legislation was passed by the Minnesota State Legislature in May 2012.
"There's a great tradition and history of Vikings tailgating, dating back to the first days of the franchise at Metropolitan Stadium," Bagley said. "Ever since, our fans have participated in the great celebration of getting together before games and staying after games. We have surveyed Vikings fans and know there is a strong interest in maintaining those game-day gatherings as we move to U.S. Bank Stadium."
Bagley said if the plan is approved by the Minneapolis City Council, the Vikings will work on identifying lots within the expanded boundaries that are willing to host tailgating activities. The Vikings will do their best to ensure that the tailgating activity is respectful of the neighborhoods and that the cleanup and restroom facilities requirements are followed.
The extensive planning for outside the stadium is worth it, Bagley said, because it's another significant element of the fan experience.
"The camaraderie on game day is an outstanding component of the experience of seeing the Vikings live," Bagley said.
The area near the stadium has seen more than $1 billion in new construction since passage of the new stadium legislation. The Vikings are proud that U.S. Bank Stadium has been a catalyst, but a byproduct of the construction is the loss of a number of surface parking lots. The Vikings, however, remain committed to ensuring the tailgating tradition continues at U.S. Bank Stadium.
A 3-acre greenspace west of the stadium, the Downtown East Commons and Medtronic Plaza will be developed as another public space for game days and beyond.
"The vision [for the Downtown East Commons] is to have a family friendly area, with inflatables for kids and NFL Play 60 interactive activity on that great lawn," Bagley said. "The Vikings also want to ensure that the Commons is open and available to everyone on game day, regardless of whether or not they have a ticket to the game."
Below is a recap of the Vikings work with neighborhood and government entities on expanding the tailgating zone:
May, 10, 2012: The State of Minnesota, the City of Minneapolis, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (now the MSFA) and Vikings sign a term sheet that served as the foundation for the final stadium legislation. The term sheet included the following reference to tailgating:
…the City and the Team will work together to expand the current tailgating boundaries on surface parking lots generally East and South of the Stadium understanding that certain areas will not be practical for tailgating.
September 2012-July 2013
The City of Minneapolis organized the Stadium Implementation Committee for the purpose of reviewing the design and development of the new stadium. In the committee's final meeting in July 2013, the Vikings presented both a tailgating fan survey and a study of downtown surface parking lots and requested that the current tailgating zone be expanded as defined within the Term Sheet. A motion to work toward expanding the tailgate zone was unanimously approved.
Since the Stadium Implementation Committee offered its directive to expand the zone, the Vikings have spent the last two-plus years meeting with representatives from three separate tailgating committees established by the City of Minneapolis, the Elliot Park Neighborhood (EPNI) and the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA). The agreement with the neighborhood associations was reached Tuesday and will be presented for consideration by members of the Minneapolis City Council.