Last night, the Minneapolis City Planning Commission took on one of the more childish debates related to the Minnesota Vikings new stadium. And that's saying something.
Fortunately, they're siding with reason, and maturity. Time will tell if the city council is able to take the same stance.
At issue is the Vikings' request to rename parts of Chicago Avenue downtown to something more Vikings-appropriate. The team's argument was as follows: Chicago, Illinois, is where the Chicago Bears play, and we can't have our stadium built on a road that honors the home of our hated rivals.
The new name for one three-block stretch, according to the team, should be 'Vikings Way.' It's actually a fitting name, once you stop gagging and/or laughing. After all, in almost all matters relating to the stadium, the Vikings got their way.
Finally, last night, the team's string of good luck — off-the-field, that is — came to an end, when city planning commissioners recommended unanimously Chicago Avenue keep its name. If the city council upholds this decision, "Vikings Way" will not become a street name, and would therefore remain a sports euphemism for a particularly cruel form of losing in the NFL playoffs.
The street portion already has one sports-ified Minnesota name tacked-on: Kirby Puckett Place, to honor the late Minnesota Twins star. The name stuck, though that team moved its business elsewhere in the downtown neighborhood.
To help inform its decision, the commission heard first from city staffers, who had judged the Vikings' idea against a set rubric used to assess such requests. According to that document, the Vikings Way idea was just fine: The change had a "public benefit that clearly outweighs the public confusion and cost," they determined.
On another point, though, staff seemed to dismiss a guideline that streets should not be rechristened just to "uniquely identify a particular product, service , tenant, business or living person." Forgive us if that's what this looks like. City employees decided that the Vikings are not a product, tenant, or business, but are instead a "longstanding cultural and historical entity."
Lester Bagley, vice president of the Minnesota Vikings, explained that the team was going to pick up the cost — a few hundred bucks, according to a city estimate — for changing signs, and admitted the team was trying to replicate the 'Twins Way' road designation next to the baseball team's new digs in the North Loop.
Commissioner Amy Luepke-Pier, an appointee of Mayor Betsy Hodges, pointed out that "Twins Way" is different, in that it's a shorter, more defined stretch of roadway. (It also runs past just two structures: Target Field and a parking garage.) By contrast, Chicago Avenue stretches on for miles.
"I don't see any benefit to the public," Luepke-Pier said. "And we actually aren't here to benefit businesses, we're here to benefit the greater public good. I don't see how this would benefit them. It's not like you can't see the stadium from anywhere in the city. It's not like no one's going to be able to find it."
The unanimous rejection could still get approval from the city council. In fact, council member Jacob Frey says he's amenable to that idea. But only if the Vikings give in on his own priority, of getting more free public access to Commons Park, the planned neighbor to US Bank Stadium.
Under current terms, the team and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) would have control of the park for 100 days a year. Frey told City Pages he sees the naming deal as an "additional leverage point" for the city.
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