|ESPN.com: NFC North||[Print without images]|
DANA POINT, Calif. -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has met with Vikings officials three times in the past month, a sign that the state's top leader has not totally shunned the team's efforts to secure public funds for a new stadium.
It is highly unlikely the talks will lead to a stadium agreement in 2009, meaning the team's Metrodome lease will expire in 2011 with no new facility for the team to move into. But the recent discussions, which were confirmed by a source with knowledge of the situation, were enough for commissioner Roger Goodell to express a small degree of optimism when discussing the issue Monday at the NFL owners' meetings.
I asked Goodell if he felt certain the team would remain in Minnesota beyond the expiration of the lease, regardless of how the stadium situation works out. Goodell's response:
"I think everybody wants the Vikings to be in Minnesota: The leadership in Minnesota and clearly the Vikings and the NFL. I'm hopeful they're going to be able to sit down and have some productive dialogue about how to do that. We recognize the challenges that they're going through in Minnesota and the priorities that they have, and I think we're sensitive to that. But also, the Gophers have a new stadium. The Twins have a new stadium. It's obvious the Vikings need a new stadium. We recognize the governor recognizes the importance of that and I think that there is beginning to be some discussions, which I think is helpful."
Goodell was referring to the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, which is scheduled to open later this year. The Twins' Target Field will open in 2010.
Part of the issue, of course, is whether the Vikings have any options other than signing a new Metrodome lease in 2011. I'm currently sitting in the part of the country where their best leverage would seem to exist, and I'm planning a more extensive post Tuesday about a town that rhymes with Bos Bangeles. Until then....