Given its big-picture implications, Minnesota’s stadium debate will remain a topic of discussion on this blog moving forward. The Vikings are the only NFC North team without a recent stadium upgrade and are among a handful of NFL franchises that remain candidates -- however tenuous -- for Ed Roski’s stadium project in Los Angeles.
So while I mentioned Thursday morning the team’s rejection of an offer to extend their Metrodome lease, I wanted to give you a better flavor of the sharply-worded letter owner Zygi Wilf released Wednesday night. More than anything, I think it speaks to Wilf’s growing impatience with what he writes are “political games” from state leaders.
Wilf writes that he is “shocked, exasperated and extremely disappointed” by efforts to encourage him to extend the lease, which expires after the 2011 season. The Vikings want a new stadium and have no interest in pushing back the timetable for replacement. But the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, their Metrodome landlord, proposed to reinstate $4 million in annual rent if the Vikings decline the extension offer.
As far as I’m concerned, here is the key paragraph of Wilf’s letter:
Come February, the Minnesota Vikings will have only 20 games remaining on our Metrodome lease. As the last tenant in the Metrodome, we would expect to be treated fairly and with some minimum level of respect. Your actions [Tuesday] leave us confused and questioning the future of this franchise.
It’s important to keep rhetoric in perspective. More than anything, the Vikings are trying to convince state leaders that they are serious about exploring options should a stadium not be approved. This letter was addressed to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, among others. But to this point, I don’t think the state believes the Vikings are a threat to leave.
I’m not sure who is right in that argument, but that’s why it’s important for us to keep track of these developments. All we can say for sure right now is that nothing has changed: The Vikings will be franchise “free agents” after the 2011 season. Sometimes free agents stay with their current team. Sometimes they move on.