MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings vehemently rejected a proposal from their landlord to extend their lease at the Metrodome, telling the stadium's operator in a letter on Wednesday its plan threatens the team's future in the state.
The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission's finance committee, chaired by Paul Thatcher, approved on Tuesday a resolution it said would buy time for the Vikings to secure a new stadium. The lagging economy and a state budget deficit have clouded the political prospects of allocating public money for a rebuilt facility.
The team's lease expires after the 2011 season, and the MSFC's proposal would keep the Vikings in the dome at least two more seasons with year-to-year renewal options after that.
The commission has not charged the Vikings rent since 2002 to help their bottom-of-the-NFL revenue situation, the Star Tribune reported Wednesday in a story about the resolution, but if the team doesn't agree to the plan it could be asked to resume paying.
Clearly, the team doesn't agree.
"What happened yesterday sent a chilling message to the (team owner) Wilfs, the NFL and the other owners about how serious we are about solving this issue," vice president Lester Bagley said in a phone interview Wednesday evening shortly after the team shared the letter with reporters. "Granted, we have economic challenges but we need to move the discussion forward."
Bagley said the team didn't see the proposal coming.
"All of a sudden out of the blue, they've chosen to focus on a lease extension rather than solving the long-term problem," he said. "We need a real conversation and engagement by state and local leadership to move the situation forward."