Almost one year ago, the Metrodome roof collapsed in the midst of a blizzard that dropped about 17 inches of snow causing the Vikings to play two home games elsewhere.
In the months following the near disaster, I attempted to get answers to some serious questions while the rest of Minnesota’s media occupied themselves with topics such as seating arrangements and the sale of alcohol.
Just hours before the collapse occurred, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission’s director of facilities and engineering declared the Metrodome to be structurally sound.
“There is no structural issue occurring [to the dome],” said Maki on that Saturday night. “But we have a pretty heavy snow load up there and the way the wind was blowing it was getting really nasty for our crews so we pulled them down and we’re going to have them back up there [Sunday] morning to remove the snow.”
At the time, I couldn’t help but wonder when an investigation into the causes of the collapse would occur. Did Maki’s decision to douse the roof with water, and then prematurely remove his staff from the roof, play a factor into its collapse? With so much money being generated by the Vikings over the years, could they not make a stronger effort to gather qualified snow movers to get the job done quicker?
I initially posted these questions and more in this Vikings Gab article. To the Vikings credit, they didn’t point any fingers at Maki or the MSFC during a time in which they could have used the situation to further their demands for a new stadium, as evidenced in this article.
Then Maki granted me an interview request regarding the whole situation. After sending him this list of 10 pointed questions, Maki took eleven days to not answer a single one and then promise to keep me updated.
I haven’t heard from him since.
Now, almost a year later, the MSFC has decided to publically pursue a clause in their lease agreement with the Vikings that, in their assessment, could keep the Vikings in town through 2012.
“For each football season, or part of (a) football season, which this agreement is suspended, the term of this agreement…shall be extended by one football season,” the clause states according to the Pioneer Press.
The MSFC is arguing that this clause makes the Vikings legally bound to play football in the Metrodome in 2012.
“I don’t see any scenario where they wouldn’t play there in 2012, and we were pretty clear about that in a letter to the team months ago,” MSFC chairman Ted Mondale said about the issue. “But the Vikings have not responded to our overtures. You can’t have a lease term and ignore it.”
The Vikings have publically responded in a carefully crafted way.
“From our internal and outside legal counsel, and feedback we’ve received from the NFL, we believe we are on firm legal footing,” said Lester Bagley, the Vikings’ vice president of public affairs. “Our lease expires after this season. It’s in no one’s interest to use the lease as an excuse to further delay a stadium solution.”
The Vikings, of course, feel that the clause was put in place to keep the Vikings from being evicted and not to punish them for the stadium not functioning properly. This notion was expanded on by an unnamed Vikings source that thinks the thought of the MSFC suing the Vikings is a complete joke.
“Could you imagine them suing us?” asked the anonymous Vikings official. “Talk about running us down the road to try to get us to do something.”
“If you’ve got 10 years left and a $1.6 million (per year) liquidated-damages clause, that’s real money. But if you’re down to the last days, it’s peanuts,” the official said. “Even if they succeeded in adding on another year, we’ll write you a check. You can’t keep us here.”
With business partners like these, who needs enemies?
All-in-all, I can’t feel too jaded towards the Vikings for their stance on this issue. I have made it clear that I think the MSFC was at least partially at fault for the roof collapsing in the first place, and now the idea of them using that event to their advantage makes me even more suspicious of this group.
This is dirty politics at work, with both sides digging in their heels, but we will hopefully get an answer about this latest issue very soon. The Vikings and the MSFC have scheduled a meeting to settle the matter of when the lease actually expires. That meeting will take place in the first week of January.
On Tuesday, both sides were present for a Senate committee hearing to discuss funding options for a new stadium plan.
Even though the two sides are at odds, Mondale admitted that without a bill in place that funds a new stadium for the Vikings they will leave Minnesota “as sure as the snow falls.”