The proposed Vikings stadium in Arden Hills is a bad idea. It makes complete sense for Zygmunt Wilf to think otherwise, because it’s a more attractive real estate investment than the Metrodome site. There’s no reason for us, the general public, even Vikings fans more specifically, to agree with him.
Reason 1: The main selling point they’re using to fans is tailgating, which is an inspired way to package the team owning 21,000 surface parking spaces that would be used 10 times/year, and getting $5,000,000 a year from them. From listening to the local sports talk radio stations over the past day, I can say that this talking point has worked like a charm.
But here’s the thing: with a little more creative thinking, the site plan for a new stadium on the Metrodome site could easily facilitate a better tailgating experience if that’s what matters. I worked on a plan over the past few months to create public parks/plazas around a new stadium, designing spaces that would take the cars out of the tailgating equation. Imagine touch football fields surrounded by permanent grills, and mobile vending of grillable goodness. Imagine getting the full tailgating experience without having to pay $50 to park. Imagine those spaces being usable and attractive parks for recreation the rest of the year.
Don’t believe me that there’s enough space? Look at the size of the parking lot behind the Dome. You can build parks over structured parking. Look at all the vacant lots nearby. Other cities are considering spanning over highways to create parks, like Park 101 in LA. If we really want to stretch out, we could span over I-35W and connect up with Curie Park in Cedar Riverside. Our plan proposed that, and we branded it Minnesota’s Backyard - a space for year-round recreation.
Reason 2: Zygi Wilf is a real estate developer, and he wants to own and profit from the land around the stadium. The public effectively owns both sites (State owns Dome site, Feds own TCAAP). Mark my words, if the team doesn’t own the land around the stadium, they won’t care about the site plan beyond the parking revenue they can capture. They want as much parking space as possible, and they want to own it - they don’t care how the site interacts with the surrounding areas/neighborhoods. Being redundantly blunt: they want a stadium surrounded by a sea of asphault. That’s close to what they have around the Metrodome now, and how has that worked out for the surrounding neighborhood? It’s a wasteland.
Mark my words one more time, won’t you? You’ve been so nice. Zygi’s angle is to have the development rights for land around the stadium. TCAAP in Arden Hills is way, way more attractive to him for this reason. He’s hoping that the Feds will sell him the rights to develop the surrounding land, so he can buy it cheap from the Feds (i.e. us), because he hasn’t been able to buy up land around the Dome.
The TCAAP site is almost 2,400 acres within 12 miles of both downtowns. It’s one of the best long-term development opportunities in the region. It makes no sense to develop it now - we (again, we should think of Federal land as our land) should not sell when land values and market demand for virtually all uses are so low. Especially not to a developer from New Jersey who is going to be supremely bullish about the opportunity to build a palatial mall next to the stadium. And we shouldn’t build new roads when we don’t have the money to maintain the roads we have. We’re spending almost a billion dollars on a light rail line that will connect St Paul with the Metrodome site, for the love of all that’s holy and good. If there was ever a time to leverage public investments rather than make new ones, it’s now.
(photo links to "Arden Hills Stadium Fly Through" on Vikings.com)
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