The 4.2-acre Commons Park that's under construction in the shadow of the new Vikings stadium was supposed to be the People's Park.
It won't be.
An agreement between Minneapolis, the Vikings, and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the public entity charged with overseeing operation of the coliseum, conceded more than 100 days of exclusive park use to special interests, namely the Vikes and the Authority.
In other words, the public would be paying for almost all of the park, but wouldn't be allowed to use it for a third of the year.
It appears that original dog of a deal is about to be amended, scoring one for the little people.
It's been known for a year the Vikings want the segment of Chicago Avenue in front of the stadium to have its name changed to something other than the hometown of one of the Vikes' fiercest rivals. Since the team's wish became public, it's been easy pickings for media types who've hammered it as just one more request from a team that's already been thrown about $700 million in taxpayer cash.
Vikes officials made their case yesterday before the city planning commission. It was unanimously shot down, which means it'll need full city council approval to become reality.
But council member Jacob Frey, whose ward includes the stadium and park, tells City Pages there's a larger deal in play. By eventually giving the team its wish, the city may find the Vikings willing to give back more of the Commons to the people.
"The Vikings play hardball, and for the last year we've been playing hardball right back," says Frey. "My goal is ensure 100 percent public accessibility of the Commons [for the people]. We're nearing finalization of an agreement on that very topic."
According to Frey, he's held up the street name change push "in order to get a win for the public.… I've felt for some time the need… for greater public accessibility. [The name change] has provided an additional leverage point."
The terms of a new agreement would require the Vikings to tone down their exclusive park use for game days as well as the day before and after each tilt, meaning full public accessibility, instead of allowing the team to reserve the greenery for ticket holders or even charge an admittance fee.
Frey says, "This will mean 100 percent public accessible Commons even on game day… open to everybody. You don't need a ticket. It's not roped off. You don't pay anything."
If Frey's initiative were to reach fruition, 62 out of what was more than 100 days of exclusive Commons use would be erased. The Sports Authority would still have first dibs for up to 40 days a year.
Frey admits the original deal, which happened before he was elected in 2014, should never have been done. But "if the Commons truly becomes everybody's park and all we need to do is change a few street signs, that to me is a no-brainer."
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