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Friday, December 17, 2010
Where will the Vikings play in 2011?

By Kevin Seifert

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We've spent so much time this week discussing the Minnesota Vikings' temporary shift to TCF Bank Stadium that we haven't considered the bigger issue: Is the facility they've vacated salvageable moving forward?

Four panels of the Metrodome roof have now torn and collapsed under the weight of last weekend's blizzard. Repair work has been halted to further study the issue, and Metrodome officials haven't yet calculated cost estimates for repairs. A new roof could cost as much as $15 million, according to the Star Tribune.

There have been no reports of structural damage to the building beyond the roof beams that were bent by snow as it poured through holes in the teflon roof. Nevertheless, the team is taking a skeptical stance of the Metrodome's short-term future.

"Our organization, our ownership have concerns about that facility going forward," said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development.

Asked what the issue is, Bagley said: "We're going to have to dig into that and get an honest assessment of that" and added: "We have concerns about the safety and the viability of that structure going forward."

It's natural to take that statement as the opening shot in what is expected to be an aggressive and urgent push for a publicly financed new stadium this winter -- one that will no doubt be tied to the Metrodome roof collapse.

"Some people would say, 'Well, a couple of shingles come off the roof, you don't build a new barn,'" Bagley said. "Well, the roof collapsed."

The Vikings will have to walk a fine line on that kind of rhetoric. Even if a new stadium was approved this winter, the Vikings would need somewhere to play for at least two more years. If it's the Metrodome, they should be careful about raising public safety concerns that could have a lasting impact on their fan base. If not, their only other option would be TCF Bank Stadium -- which, Bagley said Friday, "is not an NFL stadium."

Bagley made the comments at the end of a media availability session in which he implored fans and reporters to "hang in there with us" through a ticket conversion plan that has caused considerable controversy.

"Just try to consider the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves," Bagley said. "In a little more than 48 hours, we had to communicate a ticket plan. This is what we came up with as the best possible situation."