Stadium hole gets deeper for Vikings

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
I get asked a lot about the stadium situation in Minnesota, where baseball's Twins and the University of Minnesota's Gophers are each constructing new facilities. The Vikings, meanwhile, have made little progress in moving out of the Metrodome and are fast approaching the 2011 expiration of their lease.

That situation makes some fans nervous, especially considering the semi-recent fate of teams in Baltimore, Houston and Cleveland. NFL franchises left all three cities before eventually being replaced.

For those interested -- and I know stadium talk tends to water the eyes of many readers -- last week offered two significant developments:

  • Vikings owner Zygi Wilf reiterated his plans to seek public funding for a facility to replace the Metrodome, suggesting its construction would create "thousands of jobs." That latter comment is a nod toward the economic recession that has engulfed the country since the last time Wilf sought public funding.

  • The state of Minnesota announced it will have a $5.2 billion budget deficit for the next two-and-a-half years. Because the state has a constitutional requirement to balance its budget, massive cuts are expected -- even from public school budgets. From a political and practical standpoint, it's difficult to imagine how state leaders will approve funding for a stadium in this environment.

What does it all mean? Barring the emergence of a new approach, the Vikings are facing the very real possibility of their lease expiring with no new stadium to move in to. If that happens, the franchise will be a "free agent" and have the option to relocate if an opportunity arises.

Remember, the economic problems in Minnesota are similar to those in other states around the country. Anyone looking to build a stadium for the Vikings in, say, Los Angeles will find the same obstacles from state and local governments.

It's a little early to start pricing out moving trucks. But there is nothing in the current environment that suggests the Vikings will get a new stadium approved anytime soon.