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September 13, 2008

What are you talking about, State Fair Board?

On September 10, Charley Walters dropped this nugget into his "Don't Print That" section. It is, quite frankly, something I've often wondered myself:

It's still puzzling why the State Fairgrounds isn't the best place for a new Vikings stadium.

Historically, the State Fair Board has been notoriously against building a multi-purpose Vikings stadium on the Fairgrounds, one that would both be able to host a Vikings game and the typical events/displays housed now in the Grandstand. On September 11, Charley Walters printed their rebuttal to his simple statement:

From the Minnesota State Fair, regarding why the site isn't viable for a new Vikings stadium: Insufficient access to a freeway system; insufficient parking; strong neighborhood opposition; not a large enough stadium footprint; lack of infrastructure; incompatibility with Fair events; and the would-be loss of non-Fair events.

I have a problem with these seemingly "final" thoughts on the subject. In fact, a few of them make absolutely no sense to me at all.

First, though, let's take a look at a couple of Google maps of the Fairgrounds Grandstand and the Metrodome. First the Metrodome:


Now the Fairgrounds Grandstand:


OK. Ready? Let's dissect.

Insufficient access to a freeway system and insufficient parking

This year the State Fair had 141,127 people come through the turnstiles per day. A typical Vikings game at a new stadium would have ~70,000 fans on 10 Sundays/Mondays/Fridays during the season.

So, the State Fair and St. Paul/Falcon Heights/Roseville can figure out how to get 141,127 people into the Fairgrounds everyday for 12 days, but they can't figure out how to get 70,000 fans to the State Fair grounds 10 days during the football season? The same parking lots, freeways, bus lines, and planning won't work for Vikings games? Huh.

Also, just eyeballing the pictures shows quite a lot of parking opportunities around the existing Grandstand. And I would be very surprised if the homeowners that sell parking space on their lawns during the State Fair wouldn't also want to do so for Vikings games.

Am I off my rocker here?

Strong neighborhood opposition

Do you mean the same neighborhood that deals with 141,127 people per day during the State Fair? The same neighborhood that sells water, lemonade, parking spaces, etc. to people driving to the State Fair? The same neighborhood that would see about 700,000 more people come to their bars, restaurants, malls, and local businesses during the football season? That neighborhood?

I would really, really, really like to see some proof of this neighborhood opposition. And it better not be like five octogenarians that don't like the "hooligans" that attend Viking games.

Not a large enough stadium footprint

What the ... seriously? A five year old can see that the current footprint of the Grandstand combined with the old racetrack and surrounding parking lots is actually larger than the Metrodome footprint.

Not a large enough footprint?!?!? Has the State Fair board ever heard of Google Maps? Do they think we can't figure this stuff out without hiring our own aerial photographers?

Lack of infrastructure

Is this the same "lack of infrastructure" that can handle 141,127 people per day? OK, just checking.

I will concede that a new stadium would need more infrastructure in terms of plumbing, electricity, duct work, etc. etc. But I can't believe that whatever replacement the State Fair board is planning for the Grandstand won't also need improvements and additions to "infrastructure." Maybe not as much as a new Vikings stadium, but I am confident someone would be able to figure that out.

Incompatibility with Fair events and the would-be loss of non-Fair events

First of all, the Viking season typically starts after the State Fair is done. So, I don't know what it means to be "incompatible" with Fair events. Are they talking about the type of event? So, a music concert is a compatible State Fair event, but a football game isn't? Having booths/tents/exhibits run by the Twins, Gophers, Vikings, and T-Wolves are compatible with the State Fair, but a football game isn't? Having 141,127 people come to the Fairgrounds per day is compatible with the State Fair, but 70,000 for a football game isn't?

And is the State Fair really worried about the "would-be loss of non-Fair events" for 10 days out of the year, during the winter season? Really? The State Fair sits dormant and empty during most, if not all, of the winter. What non-Fair events are they worried about losing? Can someone help me out here?

Now, having said all of this I still like the Metrodome site better and I don't think Zygi is even interested in the State Fair grounds for a new stadium. And speaking of "incompatibility" I'm pretty sure the State Fair board would not be interested in any development opportunities Zygi might want to build around the stadium.

However, I think the State Fair Board is being a little disingenuous here ... maybe even downright dishonest. Let me know if you agree or disagree, but seriously:

What are you talking about, State Fair Board?

Posted by snackeru at September 13, 2008 7:55 PM


A couple of points on this issue:

- Those 140,000+ folks that come to the State Fair do so throughout the day and at staggered times. A Vikings game requires 70,000 people (or so) to descend on the area more or less at the same time.

- They'd also do this 10-12 times per year, making it an all-fall hassle for those that live in the neighborhood (rather than an inconvenient two weeks).

- As far as neighborhood opposition: those that live near the downtown site live downtown, and as such have likely considered (and accepted) the hassles of city traffic. The neighborhoods near the fairgrounds, in contrast, tend to be sleepy, tree-lined types of places (and also have plenty of spendy houses.) There's plenty of NIMBY syndrome to go around, too - but I can't imagine those folks with the misfortune to live near a new Vikings stadium would enjoy it.

(And I say this all as someone who lives within two miles of the Grandstand, and has wanted since he was small to live not only near, but inside, any Minnesota stadium you could name.)

Posted by: Jon at September 13, 2008 10:28 PM


- I would agree that a Vikings game requires 70,000 people to leave at the same time, but people arrive to the game all morning (and sometimes afternoon) long. Also, if the Vikings used the same busing system as the State Fair, I would think the area could be cleared out fairly quickly (say two hours?).

- I still don't see 10 games a year as being an "all fall hassle" for people that live around the State Fair. First of all, the people that live around the Fair are probably quite used to it, and secondly they've probably come up with ways to cope already. Having said that, I concede I have no idea what it is like to live through State Fair hell for two weeks.

- Again, people that live near the State Fair have already accepted the fact that they live in a high traffic area. Also, again, I would love to see some actual proof of neighborhood opposition.

I appreciate your thoughts on this, don't get me wrong, and I have no doubt there would be some opposition. But I also think there would be some people in favor of this idea for all the obvious reasons.

Quite frankly, if you don't like large crowds of people coming around your house, why do you live close to the State Fair?

I am still of the opinion that 10 games a year would not be that big of an inconvenience. It would be a perceived inconvenience, if I can be permitted to be that subtle.

(And I say this as someone who would much prefer the current Metrodome site.)

Posted by: Shane at September 13, 2008 10:49 PM

Sorry Shane, I think you are way off base here. Regarding Parking, remember the State Fair uses regional malls parking lots, University parking lots and many many shuttles. That's because there is not enough parking at the State Fair. The people who sell parking on their yards wouldn't put a dent into the need.

Also remember it's just not 70,000 fans, there is media, vendors, the teams, league officials, and others who come to the stadium but don't have a ticket. All showing up at about the same time and leaving at the same time.

Also it is not fair to compare the metrodome footprint. Remember the Metrodome is inadequate. Do something like the footprint for the new Colts stadium or Dallas Stadium to see what is needed for a new stadium site.

I can also understand neighborhood opposition. Believe me State Fair neighbors tolerate the State Fair, only a few embrace it. You're not going to hear a lot of complaints because it's the state fair and it was there long before any current neighbor. Sure it's only 8-10 Sundays a year but the crowds are rowdier, drunker, and really don't care about the neighborhood.

Could the state fair site work? Sure if both parties are forced into it but it wouldn't be a great solution and would create a lot of hassle for the area around the state fair. If we are going to do a new football stadium shouldn't we at least have a decent site. Shouldn't that be a minimum?

Posted by: freealonzo at September 14, 2008 1:41 PM

Between the lines, I hear, "We don't want our identity intertwined with a professional sports team. We'd have to give up too much."

Your logistical points are right on. They have the space and basic infrastructure. But they have operated independently for so long that they'll never want to become the NFL's bitch.

And let's face it: wherever that stadium gets built will have to become the NFL's bitch.

I think the same sort of thing killed the deal with the Gophers.

Posted by: Rick at September 14, 2008 2:33 PM

I don't like the state fair site. Build it on the site of the Dome, out on the prairie, or implode the HERC plant and build it next to the ballpark.

Posted by: kevin in az at September 14, 2008 4:04 PM

... And for the Vikings stadium debate, the part of Spycake will be played by Freealonzo ...

Let me say for the third time that I like the Metrodome site better. I just think the State Fair board is making stuff up to try to convince people that the site won't work. Really, if they can pack in 141,127 per day they can handle a Vikings game. End of story.

Having said that, Rick hits the nail on the head and I'm actually upset that while this is exactly the point I was trying to make last night I didn't actually make it:

The NFL is a very poor potential stadium partner. They demand too much and they give almost nothing. For an organization that has operated independently for so long, this is not an appealing option.

If the State Fair board came out and said this, I could understand it. But not these lame excuses.

Posted by: Shane at September 14, 2008 4:08 PM

At this point, the Vikes get no stadium unless they get a new QB. The defense is simply awesome, the RB is simply awesome, the receivers are decent. They need a new tight end and a new QB and they'll be set.

Posted by: kevin in az at September 14, 2008 4:55 PM

My official position remains that I believe my life, health and well-being will actually improve if the Vikings leave town. Therefore, I will not weigh-in on where their new stadium should be.

I simply can't take this anymore.

Jeff T.

Posted by: Jett T. at September 15, 2008 7:14 AM

The State Fair Board is smart enough not to state the obvious that the NFL is a crappy partner because they don't want to tick off state leaders who want to see a new Vikings stadium and might also be asked to fund future State Fair initiatives someday. So they come up with a bunch of other stuff that sounds good instead and hope rabble-rousers like Shane don't call them on it.

Also, the Grandstand area only sees a fraction of those 140,000 State Fair visitors per day, far less than 50 percent, so comparing State Fair visitors to Viking game attendees is not really a fair comparison.

Plus what Free said. :-)

What do people think of "Target Field" now that that's been announced?

Posted by: Snyder at September 15, 2008 12:48 PM

Well said, Free. Well said.

Another note: the Charley Walters piece that sparked this has no quotation marks, so it may be a paraphrase. And given Walters' record of accuracy on paraphrasing...

Also, I doubt it was intended to be an exhaustive list, but these are legitimate differences between the needs of an NFL stadium and an event like the State Fair. I seriously doubt the Vikings would even consider the fair site for these very same reasons, unless they were just playing them for a better deal somewhere else.

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