The Minnesota Vikings will move to a bigger “Bank” in 2016.
The team on Monday announced what is likely to be a lucrative 20-year deal with U.S. Bank for stadium naming rights, but a bank spokesman said an online site’s published $220 million price tag was “on the high side.” Neither he nor the Vikings would say more about the amount.
The bank and the Vikings had planned to reveal their agreement next Monday at a news conference on the construction site of the new $1.1 billion, 65,400-seat stadium rising in downtown Minneapolis. But Sports Business Daily crashed that plan with a story on its website. In late-afternoon statements, the Minneapolis bank and the team confirmed their partnership.
The Vikings are temporarily playing at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, nicknamed “The Bank.”
U.S. Bank has long been considered the leading contender to put its name on the Metrodome’s successor, which will open in fall 2016. CEO Richard Davis and the Vikings have engaged in a public courtship for more than a year.
Last spring, Davis donned a purple tie and, along with Carlson Cos. scion Marilyn Carlson Nelson, successfully wooed NFL owners into choosing Minneapolis for the 2018 Super Bowl. On Monday, the bank provided a written statement from Davis in which he called the Vikings a “treasure” for Minnesota and surrounding states.
“We look forward to U.S. Bank Stadium being a place that will drive economic vitality in Minneapolis-St. Paul, as well as a place where friends and families will create lasting memories celebrating civic pride and the competitive accomplishments of the Minnesota Vikings,” Davis said.
In the same statement, Vikings owner Mark Wilf said the Vikings are “proud to partner” with U.S. Bank both on the stadium and on a new “places to play” grant program. Grants totaling $250,000 will be handed out in each of the “next several years” to children’s sports facilities across the state, the news release said. Applications will be accepted beginning this fall.
The Vikings owners won the proceeds from naming rights for what Gov. Mark Dayton once called “the people’s stadium” as part of the $1 billion package approved by the Legislature in 2012. State taxpayers are paying $348 million for the stadium. Minneapolis is paying $150 million. The Vikings are paying more than $550 million.
To help defray their costs, team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf are selling stadium-builder licenses that season ticket-holders must buy for the right to purchase game tickets. Those sales are expected to raise $125 million.
In the decades since the Metrodome opened in 1982, naming rights have become a tidy revenue source for owners of professional sports teams. In contrast, the Metrodome was posthumously named after former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey at no cost to his estate.
Even with lots of room for error, the Wilfs’ deal is the richest in the Twin Cities.
The published cost to U.S. Bank of $220 million would amount to about $10 million annually for the Vikings.
Target reportedly pays the Minnesota Twins $5 million annually, but that number has never been confirmed by either side.
Both TCF Bank and Xcel Energy have 25-year deals with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team and the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild, respectively. TCF will pay $35 million over that time; Xcel pays $3 million a year.
In St. Paul’s Lowertown, the amount CHS paid the minor league St. Paul Saints to give its name to that ballpark is not public information even though the city owns the building.
No hesitation apparent
The Vikings-U.S. Bank deal means Minneapolis will have two football stadiums named for banks located 3 miles (a brief light-rail train ride) from each other with a potentially identical nickname: “The Bank.”
In terms of cost and size, the Vikings’ new home would become the “Big Bank.” The Vikings are now the fourth NFL facility carrying the name of a bank.
The purported deal is identical to what Levi Strauss & Co. paid the San Francisco 49ers for Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Opened for the 2014 season, Levi Strauss reportedly paid $220 million over 20 years.
The lack of information about naming rights led to speculation that U.S. Bank was wary. One theory had bank leaders concerned about being too closely affiliated with the Vikings, whose star player had a headline-making criminal indictment last season.
Adrian Peterson’s troubles made another big partner back off earlier. Carlson Cos.-owned Radisson Hotels withdrew sponsorship after the company logo appeared on a screen behind team executives waffling on Peterson’s playing status.
Peterson returned last week to Winter Park, elegantly navigated a difficult news conference and returned to the field.
On Monday, U.S. Bank spokesman Dana Ripley dismissed such concerns, saying the naming rights were a “great brand-awareness opportunity” for the bank and that “over many generations, the Minnesota Vikings have invested a lot … across the state.”
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747