Updated: July 30th, 2012 7:39pm
Zulgad's Roundup: Vikings stadium likely to have retractable element

Zulgad's Roundup: Vikings stadium likely to have retractable element

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by Judd Zulgad

MANKATO, Minn. - Minnesota Vikings ownership would like to have a retractable roof on the team's new $975 million stadium that is due to open in 2016 but it remains uncertain if that will happen.

What does sound likely is that there will be some kind of retractable element in the facility that will sit on the Metrodome site.

Vikings owner and president Mark Wilf said as much Monday during an appearance on "Judd & Phunn" on 1500 ESPN. "I know, for instance, the Marlins (new stadium) has a beautiful retractable wall which can look out at the skyline," Wilf said. "It could be a roof feature. We're not sure yet."

The Vikings would be responsible for paying for the additional costs that could come with having a retractable roof or a wall that can be opened to the outside.

The stadium project will take an important step forward over the next 60 days as a Request for Proposal will be sent out in order to select architects and construction managers.

"As that team comes together we'll have a better sense of what this thing is going to look like," Wilf said. "I know we're going to have an exciting plaza and game-day experience, that's critical. We're going to have a lot of great club spaces, great plazas for the general admission fans. We know we're going to have the kind of features that NFL fans around the country are used to."

The Vikings' lengthy quest for a new stadium finally was rewarded in May when the project gained legislative approval. Wilf said there was a small window when ownership, "Kind of exhaled and said, 'OK, we got something accomplished in terms of putting that partnership together.'"

But Wilf pointed out that Vikings officials quickly realized how much work was ahead of them.

He also acknowledged that having to put an extra $50 million into the stadium created what he termed to be, "a gulp moment."

"I think the amount of money that we had to step up with was definitely outside of our comfort zone and outside of where we felt it would end up," Wilf said. "But we knew that stabilizing this franchise for the next generation was critical."

Mark and his brother, Zygi Wilf, are both heavily involved in real estate, so it would make sense that the owners would be looking to buy land around the Metrodome in order to develop it for the new stadium.

But Mark Wilf said that isn't the case.

"I know (Minneapolis) Mayor (R.T.) Rybak and some of the city leaders are working in terms of a lot of the development," around the site, Mark Wilf said. "Our (focus) right now for ourselves, even though we are developers, is to make sure we make an exciting fan experience, a first-class facility. We're not necessarily focused on any of that other stuff because it's enough of a full-time job just building a billion dollar stadium."

Frazier's status

With the Vikings coming off a 3-13 season and coach Leslie Frazier entering the second year of a three-year contract, Mark Wilf was asked what ownership needs to see from Frazier in order to give him an extension.

"We don't put those kind of mileposts out," he said. "We're right now focusing on football. We don't really comment on our contractual situation, and we're really focused on winning ballgames and getting where we know we can be."

Wilf does make it clear that after seeing the Vikings go 9-23 the past two seasons that he expects things to improve. Rick Spielman was promoted to the general manager's job after last season and now has final authority over the 53-man roster.

"Our expectation every year is to compete for the NFC North title and to win the NFC North title and from there to go on," Wilf said. "Mankato is exciting for us because we feel we have the right structure in place with our general manager, Rick Spielman, and Leslie.

"We're excited about the young players we've got in here. We think our fans, hopefully they'll come out here, get to learn some of these guys and how good they really are. We're excited to see how this thing is going to develop, and we're going to be very competitive and we're going to be shooting for that NFC North title."

Winning the NFC North title is a huge long shot for this rebuilding franchise, especially since Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit make the division an extremely competitive one.

"One of the great things about the NFL is that every year is a totally different chapter," Wilf said when asked about reasons for optimism. "We've come into training camp where we've been on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the presumed Super Bowl champs and we've come in with low expectations like this year.

"I don't think any of that really fazes anybody in the football operations. I know they are focused on putting the best team on the field and winning and in this league that can happen. But, again, you've got to focus on the P's and Q's and that's what this training camp is about.

" ... Our goal is to try to stabilize it where we're just consistently a solid football organization, winning the division. It was only 2009, we were winning divisions. I just want to remind everyone. It's not that far away and we're going to be back to where we need to be."

There was a time when the Vikings definitely looked for the quick fix under the Wilf ownership group. That nearly worked when Brett Favre was brought aboard and led the team to the NFC title game during the 2009 season.

But under Spielman the thinking on how to build things has changed drastically from the philosophy used under former coach Brad Childress.

"I'm not going to look back, but that was an exciting time," Wilf said. "But here we are today and our goal looking around the league and seeing how to do it, you have to have the right structure in place and you want to be able to compete in the long term.

"That's primarily building through the draft and we again feel we had a very, very ... it was one of the biggest number of draft picks we've had since we purchased the team. So with 10 young draft picks, a lot of undrafted kids, we're going to be a lot better this year. We're excited."

Asked about the decision to go with a general manager after not having had anyone with that title, Wilf said: "We spent a lot of time looking at what are the structures that work in the league? And the general manager structure, where Coach Frazier can focus on leading this football team and developing young talent and not being distracted by the other things that might be more in the personnel area, (was a good one).

"This is what works with 90 percent of the clubs around the league and it's also a model that we feels fits what we have. We feel we have good football people that understand how to do it. We put full faith in them, and I think you're going to start seeing the fruits of that this coming season."

Giving back?

The Vikings have been near the bottom of the NFL in revenue in recent years because of playing in the Metrodome, but that no longer will be the case when they move into the new stadium.

So instead of getting revenue will they be giving their money to other small-income teams?

"I don't think it will flip-flop completely," Wilf said. "It's very hard to know. We'll probably be somewhere in the middle, so it will probably be a wash. But we have a long way to go."

As for whether the additional revenue will enable the Vikings to be more aggressive in free agency, Wilf said the team has always spent.

"I think from day one, our ownership, we feel we have a strong ownership where we've never tried to ever short on players or making sure we're competitive on the field," Wilf said. "This (stadium will) allow us to do that in a certain way where we don't have to worry about having to fund out of pocket and so forth.

"Our commitment to players has never wavered, and I hope the fans realize that whatever it takes to get it done we're going to do that. We feel it's more in the draft than free agency. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to jump into that free agency, but we really believe the draft is the bread-and-butter of the league. That's where the teams that are successful win and that's how we want to do it."

Interest in Morneau

The Dodgers, Blue Jays and Giants all appear to have interest in Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, according to a report by the CBS Sports website.

The trade deadline is at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Morneau has about $20 million left on a contract that runs through next season, and Twins general manager Terry Ryan isn't going to give him away.

But Ryan also is going to listen to any offers he gets for the former American League Most Valuable Player and it won't be shocking if the Twins do deal Morneau and allow Chris Parmelee to take over as their regular first baseman.

Morneau hasn't hurt his value by getting hot of late. He had two home runs in the Twins' weekend sweep of the Cleveland Indians and went 5-for-11 with five RBI.

End game

Members of the Vikings ownership group were in Mankato on Monday for their annual training-camp meetings. Those meetings will wrap up on Tuesday.

The Wild has sold 3,000 new season tickets since signing top free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on July 4. Now, franchise leaders have to collectively hold their breath hoping that a new collective bargaining agreement gets done and there isn't a work stoppage on Sept. 15.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd