Friday, June 10, 2011
No link between Vikings and AEG -- yet
By Kevin Seifert
As you might know by now, a Los Angeles executive told the Orange County Register that the Minnesota Vikings are one of five teams that have spoken with the company hoping to fill a proposed downtown Los Angeles stadium. The comments from Tim Leiweke, president of AEG and a representative for prospective owner Philip Anschutz, are compelling primarily because it means someone isn't telling the whole truth.
Leiweke said that Minnesota is "in the mix" but made clear that "we're not packing any [moving] vans right now." Still, Leiweke said he last spoke with a team "a week ago," and the Register reported the Vikings are "believed" to be that team.
Over the years, however, the Vikings have gone out of their way to deny any discussions with the various organizers who have championed efforts to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles. In some cases, it would have been to their negotiating benefit had they done the opposite.
In Aug. 2009, they said they turned away developer Ed Roski. And they moved quickly last month to explain a meeting between and Leiweke and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.
In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Wilf acknowledged the meeting but said it was to generate ideas for ancillary projects around his proposed stadium in Arden Hills, Minn. Here's the full quote, which appeared May 27: "As far as the folks from AEG, they were just in town for meeting about the Target Center, which they manage. I spoke to them about needing some sort of sports entertainment model so I can plan this the right way in Arden Hills. There was nothing else to it."
Team spokesman Lester Bagley told Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com that there have been no subsequent conversations. So if that is all the Vikings and AEG have discussed, then Leiweke is exaggerating the Vikings' position in the Los Angeles hierarchy. They are a candidate only insomuch as their stadium lease expires in eight months.
Even a mild conspiracy theorist could question how the Los Angeles stadium issue wouldn't at least be broached in a meeting between the Vikings owner and the executive who is trying to lure a team to Los Angeles. But for now, all evidence suggests Wilf has remained true to his original promise and is focused solely on a Minnesota stadium solution.
As I've written before, I think it's silly to ignore the relocation option. The Vikings won't indefinitely remain in Minnesota without a new stadium. Los Angeles could one day become a serious option for the Vikings. We can expect plenty of conflicting messages for as long as the Vikings' stadium situation remains unresolved. But at this point, there is no credible evidence to suggest the Vikings are in ongoing talks with AEG or that they have lied about the content of their one known meeting.