Vikings stadium: Lease through 2012?

The Minnesota Vikings' stadium situation has gotten serious enough that we have our first implied threat of legal action.

That's the upshot of a Star Tribune report that suggests the stadium's landlord wants to bind the Vikings for an additional year, through next season, because of a little-known clause in a lease that otherwise calls for a Feb. 1, 2012 expiration. The clause, known as "force majeure," calls for the lease to be extended an additional season if it is "suspended" for part of any season during its term.

According to the report, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC) believes last year's roof collapse triggered that clause. The Vikings were forced to play their final two home games elsewhere when the roof collapsed under heavy snow in December 2010.

The Vikings, naturally, have a different interpretation. If they try to relocate this winter, it's reasonable to imagine the MSFC suing based on this clause. We'll leave it to smarter legal minds to figure out who is right.

If upheld, however, the clause is a significant short-term revelation. Even if the Vikings had no plan to seek out relocation options in February, they would suffer a delay in their pending leverage swing in negotiations. And if there are truly 16 months left on their lease, rather than four, the Vikings would have a harder time inspiring urgency from state leaders to approve a stadium plan.

I suppose it's ironic that damage to an aged building might actually prolong the primary tenant's stay there, but irony and the law don't always match up. This is our first foray into the legal maneuvering that typically accompanies stadium fights, but I'm guessing it's not our last.