Vikings plans overcome first hurdle

Planning Commissions OKs comprehensive guide plan amendment

Early stages of the Minnesota Vikings’ plans to move its headquarters and training facility to Eagan are moving forward.

The Eagan Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend sending a comprehensive guide plan amendment to the Metropolitan Council that, if approved, would change the former Northwest Airlines property designation from major office to mixed use. This change would enable the Vikings to build a mixed-use development on the site that would be anchored by a large practice facility.

“This property provides an opportunity to do something unique and that will have a major impact,” Vikings COO Kevin Warren said at the Sept. 21 meeting. “This is an opportunity from a regional standpoint, to become a regional destination.”

The team’s vision is for a sprawling commercial and possibly residential district that would be anchored by its headquarters, practice facility and small stadium, which might feature a hall of fame. The headquarters would house team administrators, coaches and Vikings Entertainment Network employees. The site — located within close proximity to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America ­­— would keep the team visible year-round.

The team’s existing headquarters and training facility at Winter Park in Eden Prairie poses some space and flexibility challenges for the team, Viking representatives have said.

Plans call for three outdoor grass fields, an expanded indoor facility, and a 7,000 to 10,000-seat stadium that would feature synthetic turf. The stadium would be capable of hosting high school games, youth football clinics and other community events. The indoor facility would include space for punting drills and meeting rooms for the team, football staff and non-football staff.

The plan also calls for a hotel and conference center that would house tourists and new players trying out for the team.

“We have about 90 players on our roster and the majority are trying to make the team and we must house them while they’re here,” said Steven Poppen, executive vice president and CFO for the Vikings.

The commercial and residential component would be comprised of offices, retail and apartments.

Some planning commissioners questioned whether the residential component of the plans would fit well with the rest of the development, and expressed concerns that it would be isolated from other residential developments, which are located several miles away.

Donald Becker, stadium project executive for the Vikings, assured commissioners that all components of the project will work together and are necessary for the entire project to be a success.

“Everything is interwoven. The market will be driving this,” Becker said. “We don’t yet know for sure all the uses that will be market driven and community driven. We are looking at a 10- to 15-year period.”

Vikings officials said that the property would be developed in phases over the course of several years with the first project being the football facility.

A handful of residents spoke at Monday night’s meeting, most of whom spoke in favor of the project.

“I’m here speaking as an Eagan resident, and you’re presented with an opportunity that is very unique,” Metropolitan Council Member Steve Chavez told commissioners. “I’m a big proponent of mixed use. It will allow people to live near where they work and play.”

Two residents expressed concerns about potential traffic and new road construction, which commissioners said will be addressed later in the process when a planned development proposal is submitted.

Vikings management signed a deal in August for the 185-acre former Northwest Airlines headquarters site as well as an undeveloped 9-acre parcel to the east. The site — located at Dodd Road and Lone Oak Parkway next to Interstate 494 — has remained vacant since Northwest Airlines merger with Delta moved operations to Atlanta. Aside from the former Northwest building, most of the property is largely undeveloped.

The property is currently zoned as major office and the Vikings are asking officials to rezone it as mixed use. The proposal will go before the Eagan City Council on Oct. 6. The council will decide whether to send the comprehensive guide plan amendment to the Metropolitan Council for consideration.

If approved by the Met Council, the proposal would go back to the City Council along with a planned development and rezoning proposals.