Eagan panel rejects big ads on Vikings facility

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated which highway the Vikings’ Eagan facilities will be located near. It is Interstate 494.
The Minnesota Vikings’ widely praised plans for a sprawling mixed-used development in Eagan met with unfamiliar pushback on Tuesday when city officials nixed widespread corporate advertising at the site.
Eagan’s Advisory Planning Commission struck down the team’s request to allow a yet-undecided naming rights sponsor to plaster its logo on up to half the facade of a massive indoor practice facility slated to rise at the site, at Dodd Road and Lone Oak Parkway near Interstate 494.
Instead, the panel stuck to existing city guidelines, which restrict the corporate signage to no more than 20 percent on two sides of the building’s exterior. The practice facility would be a standout piece of the broader development, expected to rise as tall as 110 feet and cover up to 100,000 square feet.
“Twenty percent coverage on that large a surface ought to be sufficient for whatever message it is that the Vikings would like to provide to the public,” Commissioner Jane Vanderpoel Gutknecht said.
The Vikings facilities would be the cornerstone of a multi-phase overhaul at the former corporate home of Northwest Airlines. The city has so far expressed strong support for early-stage plans that forecast new office, retail and multifamily housing for a 200-acre swath largely vacant for years.
For starters, the team would build the indoor facility along with a 240,000-square-foot headquarters, four outdoor practice fields and a stadium with up to 10,000 seats. Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren billed the complex as a pacesetter, where the team could host marquee events like the NFL draft.
“It provides a unique opportunity for us, the Vikings, to serve as the linchpin, as an economic engine for this part of town, and for people to move here, for people to come here,” Warren said.
In the meantime, the interplay between the team and the city will get more complicated. Large-scale projects often need leeway to work outside existing development standards, posing a challenge for city officials balancing attractive near-term prospects with big-picture growth strategies.
Aside from the signage proposals it presented Tuesday, the team asked for a series of variances to setback rules and parking requirements. The commission largely signed off, and the City Council will vet plans at a special meeting on May 23.
A team spokesperson declined to offer additional comment on the naming rights.
While the Eagan commission reined in the Vikings’ corporate signage vision, it left room for other unconventional displays, such as team insignia etched on the practice facility façade that would become part of its “skin” and animated projections that could be added to the mix down the line.
David Murphy, a sports facilities expert at Missouri-based Crawford Architects, said those design elements would be more public art than advertising. Illuminated projections would comply with state standards for signs near roadways, team representatives said, quieting concerns that they could distract passing drivers.
“This is a destination-type location and it needs some sort of flair,” Ben Weimert, who sits on the commission, said. “That’s some of the added flair they’re proposing, that I think would be expected at this sort of development.”
The team facilities would replace an existing Vikings compound in Eden Prairie and a satellite office in downtown Minneapolis. The Vikings eventually could bring their training camp to Eagan, but the three-week event – which draws about 60,000 people annually – will stay in Mankato for now.
While the Vikings complex tops the team’s to-do list, its brass on Tuesday reaffirmed their belief the first wave of development would stoke demand for more.
Early plans for the broader Eagan site, slightly revised from a previous framework released mid-March, detail an ambitious effort to build up to 975 rental units to the site along with as many as 500 hotel rooms and more than 1 million square feet of office space.
In addition, the team wants a conference center alongside the hotel, and to add more than 150,000 square feet of retail – potentially including a grocery store, representatives said Tuesday. Specific development plans, expected to take shape over 15 years, hinge on market conditions.
“The intent is to be community service-oriented as much as possible, and let the market determine what types of retail might be most needed and desired, and to work within that framework,” said Don Becker, a principal at New York-based Garden Homes Development who is advising the Vikings.
Medium- and high-density housing would cluster on the western side of the property, with office and commercial projects mainly in the southeastern quadrant. The Vikings plan to redo roads near the development site to better accommodate the new uses.
Eagan has been more than a willing partner to the Vikings since the redevelopment push started in the fall. Several commissioners on Tuesday signaled enthusiasm for the overarching project plans.
Mayor Mike Maguire in his State of the City address earlier this year hailed the redevelopment as a boon for a stagnant pocket of town, matching support from community members and business owners that have mostly thrown their weight behind the effort.
“It’s always good when you’re in love, to be loved back,” Warren said.

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