None of Minneapolis’ ambitious stadium plans are binding, set in stone or even guaranteed to reach the right sets of eyes.
Of the 40 people who turned out for the latest briefing at Tuesday’s meeting of 2020 Partners, a North Loop development group, no one represented the Minnesota Vikings, or even the city of Minneapolis.
But on the same day that the Ramsey County Board approved a $28.5 million price to buy land at the old U.S. Army munitions plant in Arden Hills for a Vikings stadium, 2020 Partners offered more information on two potential Minneapolis stadium sites — a familiar one at the Farmers Market, and a newer one along Linden Avenue behind the Basilica of St. Mary.
But what’s the point? If the Vikings are to be believed, Arden Hills is the only site under consideration, because of the wide swaths of land available for parking and commercial development.
Johnson said he can’t just show up at Winter Park and present his proposal to the Vikings. They have to invite him, he said, which doesn’t figure to happen while Arden Hills remains a viable site.
Chuck Leer, a Minneapolis developer and chairman of the 2020 Partners steering committee, said the public deserves a bigger voice in choosing the stadium site, since the public will foot most of the bill.
“We love the Vikings, but at the same time you have to be looking at it as a public investment,” he said at the meeting. “When you put in most of the money, you get to have a say in how it’s shaped and formed. It has to work for the Vikings, obviously, but it has to work for the public.”
Later, Leer added: “We’re trying to woo the Vikings to stay. We don’t think they have seen the opportunity because it has never been developed to this extent. We would hope they have an open mind. And we think, frankly, there are better opportunities for real estate development in the core of Minneapolis than there are in the outlying areas.”
Actually, both presentations required stretches of imagination.
Neither contained a unique stadium design.
Leer, who pitched the Farmers Market site, used a mockup of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, which fit perfectly on the 34-acre footprint. Johnson’s PowerPoint showed an ambiguous domed stadium shaped somewhat like the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“It’s just an image,” he said.
Johnson has shown these images to various politicians, including City Council President Barb Johnson, but this was believed to be the first public viewing. Plans include a retractable-roof stadium across 33 acres, an outdoor amphitheater, a plaza across Interstate 394 similar to Target Plaza, an art garden, a 2,500-space underground parking garage, and a narrow band of tailgate parking along the Linden Yards railroad tracks.
In terms of transportation infrastructure, both the Linden Avenue and Farmers Market sites would be served by the planned Royalston Avenue station along the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail line.
“This is just high-level, 30,000-foot kind of concept,” Johnson said. “It helps everybody understand and evaluate that particular piece of ground.”
Curiously, Johnson said, AECOM did not undertake this for a client; the firm developed this on its own after studying downtown transportation issues for another project.
“We can’t do any more without a client, without the Vikings,” Johnson said. “We can shape the site, but at some point, it has to be about what the Vikings want inside the stadium and how that begins to shape the architecture of this building.
“What we’re asking is not an audience with the Vikings. We’re looking for a conversation on how this can make us a great city.”
It takes two to have a conversation. Until further notice, stadium advocates in Minneapolis remain one significant voice short.